The Sound and the Shadow (2014) | Savannah Film Festival


{For every film and short that I attend at the festival I will be including both a brief, unspoiled synopsis, followed by a spoiler filled discussion beneath it. So be warned before you read-on that if you do not wish to spoil any of the following titles that you watch for my included warnings.}


Born from the minds of Director Justin Paul Miller and Producer Sam Zvibleman, The Sound and the Shadow is a delightfully charming and simply executed feature length drama made for roughly under $200,000, and a lot of favors: as any good super low budget Los Angeles film is. It is well worth your investment to go see this film, and you will fall in love with these characters right away. It very much felt like a late 80s/early 90s drama/(slight) comedy like War Games or possibly Michael Keaton’s Jack Frost.


The story is about middle-aged audiophile, Harold, who takes on a new roommate when the young and spunky college-graduate, Ally is looking for an apartment space to rent out. Upon her arrival, Ally discovers Harold’s fascination with sound and sound creation, and how he has set up numerous recording devices in and around his home to record to local neighbors. But soon something strange happens next door, a little Hispanic girl named Pearl goes missing and the neighborhood fears that she’s been kidnapped and doesn’t have much time to be found alive. So Ally immediately takes charge of the situation and insists that Harold use his past recordings and his recording equipment to help track down what happened to Pearl and who took her. However, due to Harold’s social phobias and numerous outdoor allergies, he is determined to stay in his home and leave the situation alone.

Spoilers Ahead!

Eventually what begins to happen is Harold starts to find strange objects appear on the floor of his home, and he slowly realizes that all of these objects belong to the little girl Pearl: such as the teddy bear head that was stuck to her bike, a little story book she kept with her, a photograph; and oddly enough, a bloody glove that may or may not have anything to do with her.


As Ally’s persistence of Harold to help seems to have no end, Harold reluctantly joins the cause and starts putting his observational skills to work and thinks something suspicious of the little girl’s father. Considering the father’s strange nightly activities, Ally decides to bike ride after him and tail his car to a down-town bar, where she sees a transaction go down and assumes it was payment for a kidnapping job to get rid of Pearl.

But suddenly, new evidence suggests that the kidnapper may be the old homeless man who collects garbage in the neighborhood. This time, Harold decides he must do something, and braves the outdoors with his protective gear and face mask, and ventures out to record the sound that the old man’s push-cart makes in order to compare the sound to one he had heard on an earlier night.

And finally, a third potential suspect comes into play. This time it’s Harold’s bird-keeping next-door neighbor, who seems to have a sick interest in killing cats, because Harold found a dead cat sitting in the middle of his living room floor one morning as well. So Harold, being more brave than usual, decides to break into his neighbor’s house in hopes of finding a little girl tied up in a room somewhere. Instead, Harold finds himself trapped inside the house, and luckily leaves a clue for his new friend Ally to come and save him, which of course she does.

In the end, however, a local boy with a soccer ball (whom we do regularly see throughout the film) ends up finding Pearl when he prays that his ball may find her after kicking it down a hill. And indeed, he does find Pearl after coming across an old building with a crawlspace that had a fallen tree in front of the entrance; where Pearl had been trapped for days.

So therein lies the strange thing about the film: that all of the stuff that Harold had fallen in love with and had made an obsession of never really managed to pay off and become effectively useful. And while I will get to the finer points of this film in a moment regarding the central relationship between Ally and Harold, I feel that this film really didn’t make a good decision story-wise by rectifying the issue of the kidnapped little girl the way it did. Why give Harold and Ally such an unusual thing to bond over and for Harold to be obsessed with, and then never have it amount to anything directly with these events? Yes, the ending was unexpected, but it seems like it cheapens the whole concept of eavesdropping on neighbors with microphones, much like the movie “The Conversation,” because there’s no payoff with it.

There is also a few moments in the film where the local police chief comes by to investigate and question Harold and Ally, and the chief even breaks down Harold’s door to search the place upon suspicion that Harold is the culprit due to the all of the damning evidence he found there. However, this also doesn’t amount to anything in the end because although the little girl was found, the chief never came back to issue a warrant for Harold’s arrest under suspicion of stalking or minor robbery, nor did the chief ever return to formally apologize to Harold for thinking he was a kidnapper. And while I also understand that including that in the film is not really necessary to the key narrative, it still leaves a major plot-hole that feels like it should have been addressed none-the-less.

Spoilers over.

Now onto the stuff that I really really loved about this film.

The cinematography was quite interesting in this film, because it was both middle-contrast and washed out in some ways, but also vibrant and crisply colorful in others because the production designer did a wonderful job tracking down both a colorful neighborhood and a colorful house to set up Harold’s home inside. The wardrobe also did a stellar job picking out Ally’s outfits and helping to set off her fiery red hair.

Something I unfortunately cannot comment on was the music, as I don’t even recall if there was any. However, if the opportunity ever presents itself, I shall return to this blog entry to rewrite this section in regards to the score.

There are many great neurotic, skittish, socially-awkward and yet all-around lovable characters in film; but I don’t think I’ve seen one quite like Harold here, portrayed by the endearing Joseph E. Murray: who happened to be at the Savannah Film Festival when I attended the screening.


Joseph just has this face, this speech pattern, and this physical mannerism that lets you know he has his comfort zone, and he is highly reluctant to ever leave it. And yet, all of these things are what makes us feel for Harold, feel for his troubles and his hardships and makes us root for him to break free of them and become a more independent individual. And I think many of us can relate to Harold in the way that he passionately pursues his audio recordings, as we have passions and loves of our own; although I would hope most of ours do not include spying on our neighbors.


On the other hand we have Harold’s new roommate, Ally; portrayed by the very charming and adorable Mary Kate Wiles. And I do not mean to use the term adorable to demean Ms. Wiles, but to simply acknowledge that the character of Ally needed to be a cute and cartoonish character, and that she was the perfect choice vocally and physically to do so. Mary Wiles takes on her character with an extensive enthusiasm and spunkiness that I seem to only ever find in Disney Channel or Nickelodeon films; much like what I also saw in the short, Dragula. I miss those types of characters: the kind that that aren’t loud, who dress like a hipster, but want their friends to go get out and do exciting and even risky things: to get the most out of life. It’s a very specific role, but one that has a lot of potential.

Director Justin Miller explained after the screening that while it was almost too easy to find and cast Joseph Murray to play Harold, it took months of sifting through over 500 applicants to stumble across Mary Kate Wiles within the last month before shooting. So they clearly knew what they needed and what they were looking for, and I am so glad they eventually found her. Both Joseph’s and Mary’s characters will stick with me for years to come. And hopefully one day, I will be able to own this film.

I give The Sound and the Shadow 4 out of 5 stars.

On its own level, it was about as entertaining to me as Guardians of the Galaxy, but as if the whole friendship bonding aspect happened with five friends living and working in a Los Angeles neighborhood. Kind of like Sean of the Dead, but with less zombies. Check it out for yourself.