Mute is a Netflix original film that revolves around a mute bartender searching for the love of his life. Seems fairly straightforward right? Except it’s set in 2035.
Now, the movie has received loads of negative reviews for its elaborate yet muddled up plot and general nonsensical nature. The fact that the lead character Leo is played by Alexander Skarsgard, who seems to have a very limited set of expressions also does the film no favors.
Set in futuristic Berlin, we meet Leo, a young bartender who is isolated from technology and, yes you guessed it, mute. There was a motor-boat propeller accident when he was a kid where his throat was completely slashed and though the technology to try to fix him up existed, the iron resolve of his Amish mother didn’t let the doctors do so, choosing to leave his fate to the Gods.
He falls in love with a woman named Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) where he works and there’s a lot of confusion but bottom-line is, he doesn’t really know her. She tries to explain what’s actually going on but before she can spill the beans she vanishes.
As the film progresses we realize there are two plot lines, that eventually collide, but the movie swerves between the two so often that it’s too tangled up to understand unless you pay close attention.
The first plotline follows Leo desperately searching for a missing Naadirah. The second plot line follows the story of two ex-army surgeons who now work for gangsters for easy money, Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux).
Cactus Bill is attempting to leave Germany with his daughter Josie, who coincidentally also never says a word until the very end. He’s not a stable man, has serious anger issues and has zero sense of reasoning. Further, we see that Naadirah was kidnapped by Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) because she was trying to raise money to bribe the MPs to finally get him picked up.
Leo, on the other hand, has been receiving weird cryptic text messages from an unknown number that we later learn is Duck (Cactus Bill’s partner-in-crime). As he continues his search for his lady, he’s hampered by his inability to speak and his general lack of tech-savvy skills. Nevertheless, he’s resilient. He finds Naadirah’s mother, where he learns that Josie is actually Naadirah and Bill’s daughter.
Parallelly, we are given hints that Duck is a pedophile and likes his girls very (very) young. When Bill learns this, he threatens to break his arms, then embraces him and that’s that (wow).
As we hold out hope that Naadirah might still be alive, it’s all gone when Leo finds her in a plastic wrap left to suffocate by Bill (over a custody battle!). Leo and Bill fight, ending with Bill stabbed in the neck and bleeding out. Leo leaves the house with Naadirah’s body in tow. Duck arrives on the scene, sees his friend bleeding and says “You should have been nicer to me,” and proceeds upstairs where Josie is in a room locked by herself. He turns up a video feed so Bill can see what’s going on and leaves taking Josie as Bill watches on helplessly.
It gets weirder when Duck knocks out Leo, takes him to his surgery center, fixes him up, gives him his voice back and then proving he’s actually insane demands Leo to apologize for killing his friend. Leo in a post-surgery near-comatose state can’t and doesn’t respond.
Fast forward and Leo and Josie are both in the backseat of a car with Duck driving. Duck plans to throw Leo in the water for his lack of apology. However, when the car stops, proving Leo isn’t as fragile as he seems, he grips Duck and takes them both into the water down below, when Duck drowns he comes back up to the surface. Josie, standing at the edge of the bridge utters her first words, calling for the one person who cared about her, Leo.
Leo tells her to step back and that’s the first time he speaks too.
I think people failed to grasp the underlying message of the movie. It’s a movie about two people who connect and find their voices. Leo is mute because of an accident and Josie because of the terrible events surrounding her. This has implications much deeper than we notice at first. It could refer to how children are silenced by their parents or by society. It’s about people finding their voices and rising up.
I understand that the movie is way too complicated if you’re looking for something relaxing. It also features a lot of gore which can make you queasy. But if you’re like me and sometimes enjoy using your head to analyze a movie, this will be right up your alley.