Set on a high-plains ranch, the summer retreat of a Silicon Valley family, “Silent Passengers” explores personal tragedy from a perspective that is intimate and introspective. Ostensibly the Steiners have purchased their summer home to enable Mr. Steiner to spend quality time with his children, nine-year-old James and twin daughters, but on the afternoon in question he lies isolated in the twins’ bedroom, napping off the aftereffects of excessive beer consumption while his family visits a neighboring ranch to ride horses.
After Steiner’s wife, Jen, and their children dismount from their ride, one of the horses, an Apache, hooves James in the chest, and the boy is knocked unconscious when his head strikes the ground. Apprised of the accident by a neighbor’s phone call, Steiner recalls the final words that he spoke to James, a dismissive “I don’t care” in response to his son’s query about whether to go with the girls or remain with his father to help repair a broken tractor. As he races to the emergency room, this memory torments Steiner, as does his regret about drinking, a habit he had promised to avoid while on vacation.
Ultimately, this is a story about caring, hope, love, and resurrection. The father who said he did not care cares deeply. Following a doctor’s pronouncement that James will likely remain comatose, Steiner and his wife fall to their knees in an anguished embrace suggestive of physical if not verbal prayer. When they...
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