Sophie stands by herself staring at the ocean. Lost in her own world and thoughts — as well as being deaf — she is oblivious at first to the stranger who begins to share her spot on the pier, trying to photograph the local scene.
Eventually, they strike up a conversation via hand gestures and facial expressions, and Sophie and Bemo spend the afternoon together, forming an unlikely bond that flourishes despite their lack of shared language. But that growing bond and attraction is challenged in its own way, and what seems like a straightforward romance becomes a meditation on attraction, love and the vivid, fleeting nature of it all.
Writer-director Michael Aloyan’s short romance traces the beginning of an attraction, beginning with the requisite “meet cute” and proceeding until what’s traditionally regarded as the next step. Charming, simple but beautifully shot and well-performed, watching two different individuals find common ground and then attraction is lovely, especially when the storytelling highlights how their lack of shared language seemingly makes space for a more intimate, vulnerable connection.
There isn’t much dialogue in the film, but strong sound design offers a glimpse of what’s it like to be in Sophie’s head, experiencing music as rhythmic thumps and exploring a subjectivity that is rich in sensation, even if she can’t hear sound. Sharing some of that with Bemo forms one of the most evocative and heart-warming moments in the film, and it’s easy to see why they become so taken with one another.
Actress T.J. Carpio plays Sophie’s hearing impairment lightly, but traces her growing openness to Bemo with great responsiveness and emotional honesty. Actor Shvan Aladdin plays off her well as Bemo, essaying a role notable for its warmth and kindness, and the two’s connection flourishes, even if they don’t seem to have much-shared ground yet.
As Sophie and Bemo develop other ways to share their selves and lives outside of spoken conversation, the film seems to function as a romantic montage leading to a high point of consummation, gracefully threading through their growing intimacy in a series of beautifully etched vignettes. But in a subtle but clever set of twists, the storytelling upends those narrative expectations, making what seems like a straightforward romance into something unexpectedly meditative and even melancholy.
Without giving too much away, “Noise” seems to question just what the origin of attraction is, what role and importance common ground — whether it’s through shared language or other values — plays in love and what do we gain or give up when rushing into romance. This narrative turn is gently accomplished without melodrama, but it’s enough that when the would-be couple comes back together, the emotional tenor of the story is markedly different from the beginning. It’s not unlike real life, perhaps, when the beautiful “castle in the sky” created by two people’s mutual romantic fantasy and momentum reveals itself as the fragile edifice it is — and the couple must decide what’s really holding it up, and whether that’s enough to sustain it.