Friday, September 17, 2021

Silent Night: Movie Review



Dark, bleak, funny and interesting.

Silent Night is a smart, unsettling combination of a family holiday comedy, a relationship drama and an end of the world, apocalyptic horror. Perhaps The Family Stone meets 28 Days Later…, a bleak dark comedy about inevitable death but held when everybody gets together for Christmas dinner. It’s a story of privileged people accepting death but not accepting that others might not share their world view.   2021

Directed by: Camille Griffin

Screenplay by: Camille Griffin

Starring: Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode

If it sounds chaotic, it is – and yet here’s the thing, it doesn’t take on more than it can handle, the story is told in the most sane way imaginable, so the chaos that would normally engulf this movie is on the outside looking in. This is Camille Griffin’s first feature film, and she has made a very confident debut. She focuses on the characters and lets the insanity of the world unfold without them. After all, these are privileged people who can afford nice houses in the British countryside. It’s exactly like them to not worry about what other people are doing and just do what they think is right.

Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode) have a 13-year-old boy Art (Jojo Rabbit’s Roman Griffin Davis) and two younger twin boys (Griffin Davis’s twin brothers). (And yes, this is a family affair, director Camille Griffin is the mother of all three boys). They have invited Nell’s sisters and spouses and niece, and an old family friend James and his girlfriend Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp). It’s going to be a green Christmas in the British countryside with games, laughter and plenty of food and drinks.

The awkwardness begins when one of Nell’s sisters throws herself at James, flirting as if it’s their last night on Earth, right in front of Sophie. Well, it is their last night on Earth. Later at dinner, Sophie begins to tell a story that starts out happy about her family gathering for dinner but all the adults seem to know where it’s headed and think it’s not appropriate for the kids. Art interrupts – he knows what’s going on. There’s a poisonous cloud that kills everybody, with an unpleasant gruesome death. Nobody survives it. The British government has offered its citizens an escape plan: the death pill. It allows you to die painlessly. Take it before the poisonous cloud arrives and then meet your loved ones in heaven.

Our main characters don’t understand how it’s even a choice, of course you take the pill. They are horrified that some people don’t want to take it, enter outsider Sophie and eldest son Art.

At first I was really questioning if these characters are acting as expected. But through the first half of the movie, it’s clear that we’re past the 5 stages of death, they’ve already accepted the inevitable and have moved on to avoidance. Dance, drink, love and just make sure the kids understand that they’re the best parents in the world and it’s not their fault. Obviously they spent their kids’ education funds on fancy new clothes and boots, it’s not like they have a future anyways.

There’s a lot of comedy and it’s dark and bleak. Meanwhile, Art who has only figured out parts of what is going on because of his parents’ attempts to shield the truth from him, is now going through denial, anger and bargaining – what if the poisonous cloud doesn’t kill you?

Silent Night is a smart film that expertly blends in psychology of apocalyptic trauma with the comedy of family relationship dynamics. All of the various tones and genres are balanced well and the premise is handled in an interesting way. The ending is sure to haunt you so I’ll just leave it at that.