WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Daniel Higgins, Vanessa Donley, and Jesse Mueller
In Hassan Said's unsettling and disturbing Mute, Oliver (Daniel Higgins) is a retired single parent caring for his daughter with Autism, Ana (Vanessa Donley). When he returns home from a quick trip to the store to find that his daughter has been brutally abused, Daniel takes matters into his own hands and goes after the perpetrator (Jesse Mueller).
Winner of the Jury Award for Best Editing at the Big Easy Film Festival and having played at several festivals around the country, Mute is a film that transcends the usual victim/perpetrator scenario by pushing each of these characters to their very limits and by refusing to come up with any pat answers or greeting card resolutions. D.P. Jordan Ashton Danlez's camera work is moody and mysterious, while Matt Wood's haunting sound design and mix leaves a lasting impression that stays embedded deep within the psyche' long after the closing credits have rolled.
As young Ana, Vanessa Donley is tasked with bringing to life the young woman's autistic tendencies without turning them into a caricature while also hinting at the frightening vulnerability that such a serious disability can create. If you're irritated by her performance, then she's accomplished her mission here as she brings vividly to life a young woman caught between the worlds of a child and a woman and being unable to differentiate between the two.
As the protective yet similarly fractured father, Daniel Higgins projects the image of a quiet, protective man who has pretty much spent his life working to protect his daughter only to see it disintegrate before his very eyes. His actions here are disturbing, yet they are the actions of a man perhaps as much on the edge as his more obviously vulnerable daughter.
As the perpetrator, Jesse Mueller plays it straightforward yet convincingly as a man who sees an opportunity to exploit and goes for it in that smooth, seductive way that all perpetrators act. You don't hate Mueller here, at least not until it's too late, and that's a testament to his balanced, convincing performance.
The film's non-linear editing contributes to the emotional and physical chaos of the situation, a chaos that makes even more troubling the actions and words and images unfolding.
For more information on Mute, visit the film's website listed above.