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TIFF 2023: “Not a Word”


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Maintaining a healthy relationship with a growing child who chooses silence over communication can be extremely challenging. Often, parents miss many warning signs. Questions go unasked, and negative feedback from teachers is unwelcome. So, what is the right course of action to avoid lasting heartbreak?
Nina Palcek (portrayed by Maren Eggert), a skilled conductor, diligently prepares for an upcoming concert. Nothing should distract her from this important event. However, when tragedy strikes at school, her focus shifts to her teenage son, Lars (played by Jona Levin Nicolai), who is injured after falling from a window. Fortunately, he sustains only a concussion, but questions arise – was it a mere accident or a deliberate act of self-harm? If it was intentional, what could have driven him to such a point?

Several scenes quickly illuminate the realities of Nina’s motherhood. For instance, teachers attempt to engage her in conversation, but she declines their request for attention. Lars, too, proves to be difficult. He does not listen, disregards his mother’s pleas, and follows his own desires. His father also seems consistently absent; when summoned to the school by the principal for a serious discussion, he is unavailable. Consequently, Nina prioritizes her son’s needs and takes him to a remote island in an attempt to reconnect with him, uncover the source of his inner turmoil, and seek a resolution to his painful silence and resentment.

Written and directed by Hanna Slak, “Not a Word” serves as a poignant reminder of how easily we can lose touch with our children if we fail to pay attention to their unspoken words. We often refrain from asking too many questions and avoid broaching complicated subjects, fearing that we might hurt the feelings of our loved ones. The reality is that what we perceive and what our children expect can be vastly different, and the film’s title, “Not a Word,” effectively underscores this dichotomy.

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