Lia Wu explores the power of selflessness and obsession in her short film screenplay The Silent Recital. For Aria, accomplishing her goal to become a celebrated concert pianist is paramount. Her success rides on her nailing an upcoming audition.
Unfortunately, Aria’s quest for success comes at the expense of others. She becomes triggered by the smallest challenges like a messed up coffee order that could delay her audition. She puts her needs first, even before her boyfriend, Dylan.
When Aria spots a lone dog at a cafe on her way to the audition it is almost as though she sees herself in him, and has a glimmer of empathy. After a frustrating audition, she houses the dog. Aria and the dog are like two lonely, isolated souls who gain comfort in one another. Her supposedly selfless maneuver, however, has selfish undertones. The dog likely has another owner.
Wu writes her main character with dimension. The Silent Recital slowly chips away at what makes Aria’s exterior so harsh. Aria feels tangible. Her arc has the power to make audiences reflect on their own values. Many can relate to Aria’s tunnel vision, how the quest for perfection can be all too consuming.
The plot satisfies without being too maudlin. In fact, the story plays out in slice-of-life fashion making it feel real. Aria and Dylan’s presence in the script felt naturalistic, like peering into a familiar, personal relationship. Dylan’s frustration with Aria is relatable. He wants Aria to see beyond her goals, and put kindness first.
Aria and Dylan’s dialogue feel equally naturalistic. Wu keeps the world and environment tangible. She is able to bring in some magical realism only in the parts that explore Aria’s inner desire to become a concert pianist. Aria sees herself on stage appreciated by a grand audience. Only in reality, Aria is ignored for her skill. But her skill is great. If only Aria could realize that, and not be so anxious from her troubled past.
Many have felt the pangs of achieving perfection, felt selfish, and have been blind to what is really important in life. Wu explores a character that goes through a struggle to achieve selflessness in a beautifully simple but big way. Her script is heartwarming, familiar, and may even make the reader want to reach out and be kind.