Transience (2013): Silent Message (Review)

Timothy J. Cox

Written and directed by Tan See Yun, Transience is a silent film that conveys a message of cunning simplicity.  Starring Timothy J. Cox and Joshua Michael Payne the film follows George and Tom in a typical day. 

Shot in black and white, this journey in silence shows that the two men have stopped talking to one another. The lack of dialogue mimics their lack of communication. Each man has specific interests. George is the hardworking one who cooks a breakfast for his spouse.

Tom is more interested in his looks and playing the field.  He gets annoyed at the freshly prepared breakfast and avoids eye contact with George after he slips back on his wedding ring.  Later,  as the film progresses Tom prepares a meal for George and it is a TV dinner.

In essence the two men are opposites. George is the “grownup” and Tom the child. Yun uses flowers, meals and chess to tell the story of the two men and their relationship. At the start, George replaces the dead flowers with new ones. He also makes a move on the chessboard. Tom ignores the game board and concentrates on breakfast.

Later the chessboard is used to show that things have been reset. The flowers are also replaced again. Each item indicates that the relationship has survived this rocky patch and that both men have re-invested in one another. However, the microwave meal versus the properly cooked breakfast  shows that the two men are still very much opposites.

There is a scene in the short film where Tom “sees” George at the park. The other man is asleep on a park bench. A chessboard sits opposite him and an empty chair is in front of the table.  On the ground beside George is a walking cane.

This scene appears to motivate Tom. The appearance of George is a sort of vision, apparently. where an older version of his partner looks lost and alone. Tom is moved to re-invest in his relationship and makes an effort.


The entire film is silent. There is no score or peripheral noise, aka Foley Effects, and not one scrap of dialogue. These two men’s world is silent as death and this reflects the vacuum they have created with their own non communication.

Transience works as a romantic cautionary tale. The message is as clear as the photography on the project. “Talk to each other.”  A lack of communication, verbal or non-verbal creates a vacuum where nothing survives. Things  may not be rotten, but they  are not growing either.

Space is a vacuum and it has no gravity. Objects float away, not held together by anything, and the two men’s relationship is also floating away at first.

Cox and Payne has a good chemistry in the film. Their interaction does feel like a truthful representation of a long term couple who are having issues.

Transience is a  cracking little silent film. It also appears to be Yun’s only short film to date.  This is a solid 4 star effort, it loses one star due to the confusion in the park scene, but is masterfully done overall.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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