Review: ‘Silent City’ has little to say


In “Silent City,” watching the travails of a young Dutch cook, Rosa, struggling to keep sane in Tokyo is its own kind of trial. Rosa’s plight is naturally moving: She’s friendless in Japan and less conversant in the language than a baby. But she’s so short on resourcefulness that lending her sympathy is a chore.

Rosa (Laurence Roothooft) is an apprentice to Master Kon (Makoto Makita), a legendary chef as inexpressive as he is demanding. Mornings begin with group stretches; days are spent in factory-like conditions, the trainees slicing open dozens of fish in silence. Every friendly gesture Rosa makes toward her co-workers is rebuffed; they won’t even reveal their names.

It’s easy to see why Rosa stays on. When she tastes Kon’s dishes, she’s transported to a nobler place. But the fish can’t keep her company at the bathhouses, where she’s alone even when surrounded by countless other naked women.


Her composure soon falters. “Does anyone speak English?” she wails at a half-full subway station. None do, but it’s not so difficult to find English-speakers in an international metropolis filled with foreign workers and expats. That Rosa never encounters another character with English fluency — nor grasps her Eurocentric limitations — makes director Threes Anna’s film less the intended portrait of cultural isolation than an illustration of how a lack of imagination can lead to despair.


“Silent City”

MPAA rating: None. English, Dutch and Japanese with incidental English subtitles

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also available on VOD.