There are moments early in the film when the viewer has to question if they are at the wrong film. Have they been mistaken, finding themselves watching "The Artist"? Answer, No.
The dialogue is thin, but can Daniel Radcliffe pull off the visuals necessary to keep everyone's eyes glued to the screen? The experiences over the years on the set of each installment of the Harry Potter film series allowed him first person training.
The film is based on a book by Susan Hill of the same name with the screenplay written by Jane Goldman. Several liberties were taken to condense the story, and in doing so, adjustments within the story were made.
Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe ) along with a nanny (Jessica Raine ) are the sole caregivers of Joseph. Stella Kipps (Sophie Stuckey ) died giving birth to Joseph during a time when automobiles had just begun to take over from the horse and buggy. The medical profession had limited resources to help save mothers who had complicated childbirths. Joseph, now approximately 3 years old and the light of his daddy's eyes, relies on his nanny for his daily care.
Kipps is torn between his son and his job, which often takes him away for stretches of days. This time, he is assigned the responsibility of finalizing the estate of Alice Drablow who owned Eel Marsh that hides a horrible secret. Leaving his son is difficult, but it is intrinsic for him to keep his job. Agreeing to meet Joseph and his nanny at the train station, Arthur prepares to leave.
The dialogue becomes reduced while the director, James Watkins, needs to rely exclusively on the facial expressions and the deep illuminating eyes of his lead actor. Watkins does not look down at his audience as he intrusts them to follow the story with little scripted words, confident that Marco Beltrami can quietly add dialogue through his music. The music becomes its own character, feeding off Radcliffe while connecting and easily drawing the audience into the story. The scenes where Arthur is alone in the old mansion completely isolated while seemingly endless holds the viewer, pulling them in and when the director is satisfied, you're on the edge of your seat, startled with quick and unexpected visual aggression.
The mystery of what has happened over many years slowly gets revealed while the people of the town, who would rather have Arthur leave, feel this is the only way to save their children. His presence has stirred the evil woman in black who is spiteful after being kept apart from her own child when she was alive. The film makes amendments to the book with the woman in black's past adjusted to fit a more condensed film length. It allows the writer options to wrap up the story in a quicker fashion. It also takes a modern thinking direction, leaving the era of pregnancy outside marriage in the far distant past.
Overall, the movie at 95 minutes goes by fairly quick, but the lack of dialogue is filled with good directing with "Boo" moments injected at just the right times. We are always in need of over the top dialogue and quick moving storylines, but this film has an appeal that is quite unexpected.