Mysterious Westerner Luke (Pierre-Matthieu Vital) is found swimming naked by police and arrested. Seemingly unable to speak, Luke is sent to a hospital to find out what is wrong with him. When the doctor’s fail to find anything wrong with him it is decided that he will be sent to a mental asylum. Hospital orderly Jiang (Gao Qilun) befriends Luke and takes him to his uncle’s village essentially rescuing him from potential life imprisonment. As he gets to know Luke, Jiang starts to uncover the events that led to him being found naked by the police.
Speechless is a surprisingly intriguing film that unravels slowly revealing what happened to Luke to make him mute. In the first half of the film we get glimpses from Luke’s memory as he tries to piece together his own backstory including scenes of him having sex with another man. Once Luke is out of the hospital and bonding with Jiang, he disappears leaving Jiang to do some investigating to find out how he ended up in hospital in the first place and where he has gone to. Jiang soon tracks down Ning (Yu Yung Yung) a young woman that knew Luke from college. What follows is a series of twists and turns as Jiang tries to uncover the truth about his mysterious new friend.
Director Simon Chung, who also co-wrote the movie, ensures that you get drawn into Luke’s story as you, like Jiang, try to figure out what has actually happened. From the movie’s opening scene where we see a naked Luke swimming before being arrested, you are intrigued to find out what happened and if he is indeed crazy. Of course things aren’t as clear cut as that but the film’s many twists and turns eventually reveal the events that led up to that moment.
Speechless was filmed pretty much in secret in the northern part of the Guangdong province in the south of China. Homosexuality is still something of a taboo in China and Chung found that he had to film without official permission. This is a brave move for the director but highlights how far there still is to go in parts of the world when it comes to equality. The film will never get an official release in China due to its content which is a real shame as it’s actually a very good movie.
The DVD contains an exclusive interview with writer/director Simon Chung along with cast and crew biographies.
Speechless is a solid mystery drama and had us hooked from the opening scene. Of course it helps that Pierre-Matthieu Vital is very pretty so seeing him nude right at the start definitely helps to draw you in. His performance is very good and he has to be expressive through other means as his character barely utters a word. Simon Chung has created an intriguing movie that explores not only homosexuality in a part of the world where it is barely tolerated but tells the story of a young man whose innocent relationship with another man led to such traumatic consequences.