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Without words, young ‘Alice Hart’ actress speaks volumes

Sigourney Weaver (left) and Alyla Browne in Amazon's "The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart."Hugh Stewart

One last thing about the “The Lost Flower of Alice Hart,” Amazon’s Australian import starring Sigourney Weaver. The miniseries, which ended earlier this month, is an emotionally challenging portrait of domestic abuse, with Weaver as the protective — perhaps too protective — grandmother of a young survivor named Alice.

Just about every actor in the show is good, including Asher Keddie as a librarian hoping to adopt Alice and Alycia Debnam-Carey as the adult Alice. But I want to single out Alyla Browne, who plays the young version of Alice, who is 9 when we meet her. She is living with her parents in a small coastal town until they both die in a house fire, which she believes she started. She is devastated when she arrives at her grandmother’s flower farm to live, and, guilt ridden, among many other strong feelings, she is unable to speak.


Browne brings a quiet grace to Alice’s nonverbal phase, with wide eyes and the smallest of telling expressions. She has the chance to be joyous very early on in the story, when Alice’s father is on an upswing (before the inevitable down). But most of her work, before Debnam-Carey takes over, is giving us Alice’s grief, and her innocent understanding of what happened. Without a word, you hear her in a minor key, and you don’t want to look away. She doesn’t telegraph Alice’s inner life, but it’s there on her face and in her body language. She brings complexity effortlessly.

Great dramatic performances by children — we’ve had others recently, in “Dear Edward” and “Rain Dogs” — always fascinate me. There’s something honest about them, something unprocessed and direct, something unadulterated.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.