The Place of No Words
In writer-director-star Mark Webber’s The Place of No Words, a father (Webber) and his three-year-old son’s (Bodhi Palmer, Webber’s own son) imaginative playtime gradually evolves into a touching and deeply intimate examination of death, love and family, as the youngster struggles to understand his father’s terminal illness. Webber handles the serious subject with a lighthearted spin: fairies, fizzle berries and poo swamps are silly inclusions that could be found in any bargain bucket children’s film, but the sophisticated writing seldom allows viewers to forget the tragic reality behind the fantasy.
Above all else it’s Webber and young Palmer’s bond that makes the filmmaker’s latest feature work. What’s shown onscreen is real love between a father and son, which gives events a personal quality that couldn’t be achieved if the actors weren’t related. Likewise, real-life wife and mother Teresa Palmer takes up the same role, and while she isn’t as involved as the rest of the family, she brings just as much heart into the underlying family drama. It’s the smaller moments where all three actors are together that stand out as the film’s highlights. The plot might be fictitious, but the affection certainly isn’t.
The premise of a child coming to terms with adult issues through the lens of fantasy will undoubtedly bring to mind the likes of A Monster Calls, I Kill Giants and Where The Wild Things Are. But, unlike these titles, Webber sets his work apart with a more experimental format that could make this film arguably less appealing to mainstream audiences. Much like a child’s play, the structure is fractured and lacks narrative cohesion as scenes progress as if they were being made up as they went along. While this can be frustrating and even confusing at first, the chaos is ultimately another manifestation of the father-son bond at the heart of the screenplay. Like the films mentioned above, the emotional pay-off here hits just as hard.
Towards the end, however, the already hectic narrative begins to go even more off the rails than it already was. Consequently, following the metaphorical significance is needlessly overcomplicated, detracting from the simplicity of the opening. Nevertheless The Place of No Words is a heartwarming and equally devastating story of family.
The Place of No Words is released digitally on demand on 5th July 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Place of No Words here: