Louder Than Words features pretty people, pretty architecture, and pretty shots of nature, all of which seems a bit tone-deaf in a film built around a young girl’s death from rabies.
A purportedly inspirational tale based on a true story, it makes The Fault In Our Stars look as raw as a Dardenne brothers film. While camping, Maria (Olivia Steele-Falconer) is bitten by a bat, although she doesn’t even notice it at the time. A few days later, she dies in the hospital. Her parents, suburban Connecticut real estate developers John (David Duchovny) and Brenda (Hope Davis), take their grief and turn it into action by devising a plan for a more humane children’s hospital, to be named after Maria.
Director Anthony Fabian seems well aware that he’s dealing with made-for-TV material here — more Hallmark than HBO — and does his best to make it cinematic. Unfortunately, these efforts mostly amount to Steadicam shots of Duchovny looking sad and sensitive, usually followed by a cut to his memory of Maria. There is also a lot of imagery of New England’s fall foliage.
While Maria is still alive, Steele-Falconer’s performance is lively enough to transcend the film’s weaknesses, but without her, Louder Than Words seems a little lost. Its resurrection of Maria in frequent flashbacks and readings from her diary is blatantly sentimental button-pushing.
John’s quest is also powered by an unacknowledged class privilege that makes all the minor trouble he runs into feel cosmetic; grief really is the only thing holding him back. Louder Than Words obviously means well, but its brand of cheap uplift is the kind of cheese that actually breeds cynicism.