Jane is a young teenage girl, isolated and often on her own. Stuck in her head, alienated and lonely, she has a hard time reaching out to other people. Her only outlet is drawing, which she does all the time.
Jane strikes up a connection with Tisha, another young girl she sees at their neighborhood bus stop. Tisha in turn invites Jane to hang out at an unlikely place: a boxing gym, where Jane slowly comes out of her shell and into the world at large.
Written and directed by Ben Price with thoughtful visual acuity, this subtle drama does begin with about three minutes of silence as it details Jane’s world, which is a profoundly quiet and lonely one. Home seems devoid of other people, and any attachment or warmth. We get a sense of the emotional neglect that Jane is surrounded by, which makes it harder for her to connect to others.
Visually, too, the film emphasizes an atmosphere of alienation, often framing Jane in very wide shots that reduce her to a small figure dwarfed by the larger world around her. The visual language toggles between close-ups of Jane with these wide shots, and the juxtaposition of a visually distant shot with the intimacy of the dialogue and sound create a feeling of disconnect, where the eye and the ear aren’t quite perceiving the same thing in the same way. And when Jane has to reach out of her silence, she has a hard time breaking through her anxiety.
But as her world opens up and Jane’s relationship with Tisha evolves, the visual strategies of the film change as well, moving the camera closer and giving viewers more emotional access to Jane as her own feelings open up. The milieu of the boxing gym, too, is boisterous and full of life and camaraderie, captured with textured, gritty naturalistic cinematography.
At the gym, Jane is especially drawn to Tisha, who she watches with keen attention to detail, noticing things that most people would not pick up. Perhaps it’s a crush, but it’s also Jane’s first steps into a larger, friendlier world, as unlikely as it is. Actor Bella Ramsey — who played fan-favorite Lyanna Mormont on “Game of Thrones” — details Jane’s slow transformation as she comes out of her shell. As Jane, Ramsey oscillates between longing and anxiety around people, her vulnerability almost crippling her from going after what she wants more than anything. It’s a precise and empathetic performance and plays off actor Molly Wright’s tough but ultimately sympathetic Tisha beautifully. In the end, Jane’s small but significant risks — and resulting victories — become the audience’s own.
Intelligent, lucid and almost painterly sense of observation, “3 Minutes of Silence” is a quiet character portrait and an examination of loneliness and social isolation, and its narrative of hope and friendship exists on the internal, emotional level. It has dignity, patience and a willingness to tell the story of its awkward, withdrawn main character on her own terms, in a way she’d likely tell it herself. By staying so true to Jane, it achieves a unique, moving resonance, putting us in the shoes of someone who stands apart from the world — but who summons the courage to take the first steps to change her life and connect with others, in a journey that is ultimately relatable to many.