The price of success is the center focus of co-writer/director Aristotle Torres’ beautifully shot 16-minute film Silent Partner. It opens with the highly publicized case of a wealthy white woman being exonerated in the shooting death of a black teen. In the glow of the television coverage, we see one of the woman’s lawyers, Silas Jones (producer Roderick Lawrence). Bathed in the blue light of the screen, listening to the teen’s mother pleas for justice, a single tear streams down his face.
In the adjacent room is his pregnant wife, Kosi (Kara Young). She is getting ready for the law firm’s lavish celebratory dinner, one in which Silas hopes to make partner after his “victory.” She is aloof as Silas pleads for her to finish so they can arrive on time to impress his boss. En route to his palatial estate, they seek directions at a gas station when they are eyed by the pickup truck driver adorned with various casually veiled bumper stickers that have become this generation’s confederate monuments.
Once at the estate, the young couple is greeted with the casual niceties from the affluent guests, and where the only other person of color is serving the meal. Dinner conversations all focus on the couple, whom the guests address with a mixture of pandering, fascination, and synthetic sympathy. Silas and Kosi strain to grin through it as their hosts yammer on, oblivious to their words’ impact. Nevertheless, it soon becomes evident that Silas must choose whether a position as a partner in the law firm is worth sacrificing his and his family’s dignity.
“…Silas must choose whether a position as a partner in the law firm is worth sacrificing his and his family’s dignity.”
Throughout Silent Partner, Torres and co-writer James J. Johnson, working from a story by Lawrence and Torres, release a torrent of microaggressions in a short runtime. The filmmakers perfectly capture Silas and Kosi’s struggles. From the casual greetings he receives from a fellow white attorney (“You feel me, bro?” and “My dawg!”) to the tone-deaf topics at dinner, we witness the accumulation of seemingly innocuous small talk rooted in racist beliefs.
Also of note is impressive cinematography from Eric Branco. Branco masters the mood with color and frames scenes so that we can feel the impact on Silas and Kosi as they soak in the torrent of barbed niceties. The scene at the gas station is particularly effective, with a sickly green overhead light looming over the scowling owner of the pickup, its exhaust creating a plume of menacing mist.
Silent Partner effectively demonstrates the world of microaggressions that can be even more insidious than overt racism: the educated, well-heeled elites who have a more extensive vocabulary from which to draw but whose words have just as much impact.
"…effectively demonstrates the world of microaggressions..."