Silent Night’s impeccable ensemble takes on the darkest Christmas yet
Silent night went into production in early 2020, before the world as we once knew it was irrevocably changed. This grim British comedy, filled with biting commentary on world and British politics and the environmental crisis, would have been a sure-fire hit in this ‘before’ world. This movie is not quite like the other dystopian hellish landscapes of the end of the world, as there is no hope for a better future, it is as hopeless as many of us have felt during of the past year and a half.
Silent night‘S Flawless Set Takes On The Darkest Christmas Yet
The world is in crisis, but we don’t yet know that when the film opens about Nell (Keira Knightley) and her husband Simon (Matthew Goode) adorning the hallways of their lavish estate. Their youngest children are arguing, their eldest son Art (Roman Griffin Davis) is helping out with dinner, and their friends are on their way to join them for the holidays.
Silent night looks like the typical British Christmas movie until it doesn’t. You have stereotypical holiday guests in selfish Sandra (Annabelle Wallis) and overly kind husband Tony (Rufus Jones), their obnoxious child of a girl Kitty (Davida McKenzie); you have well-meaning James (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù) and his pregnant girlfriend Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp); and then you have the boisterous Bella (Lucy Punch) and her partner Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) who don’t feel out of place with the rest of the group of friends.
At first, Nell explains that their vacation plans are all about forgiveness, although this remains ambiguous until the end. They try to forgive each other for what they all have to do. As adults try to lose themselves in their memories and drink off their grief, their children are all trying to grapple with what will happen in the morning. Art tries to research and find out more about the situation, desperately looking for alternatives other than death, but no one really wants to listen to a child.
While the adult cast is made up of many familiar faces and colorful characters, it’s Roman Griffin Davis who carries this film. Can someone please cast this boy in a happy movie? I still haven’t recovered emotionally from Bunny Jojo. Davis does exceptionally well at tackling extremely mature adult emotions, and that’s what makes this film even more painful. His scenes with Matthew Goode are really moving and they go together extremely well.
Silent night is Camille Griffin’s first feature film and she’s doing extremely well in directing. She balances a large ensemble quite skillfully and creates the right amount of tension between the characters with her stage composition. The screenplay, also written by Griffin, had a number of issues that undermined some of the film’s potential. Not to spoil anything, this last scene went a bit too far for my taste.
The script really did a disservice to the characters of Howell-Baptiste and Dìrísù, who were the only black characters in the film. James de Dìrísù is subjected to a very uncomfortable discussion about everyone wanting to sleep with him when they were together in college, while Alex de Howell-Baptiste bears the brunt of Lucy’s unnecessary aggression from Punch. For a movie whose entire premise is dark and uncomfortable, the way these two characters were treated was somehow even more uncomfortable.
At points, Silent night tries to respond to social commentary on climate change, while poking fun at the monarchy, but it never really comes down to anything more than a punchline. There are also key elements in the movie that I fear will not attract a particular brand of anti-vaccines that are looking for alternative options. Do we really need to encourage family annihilators during a deadly pandemic?
In a world where I haven’t spent the last eighteen months trapped in my house, fearing an airborne virus that could kill me and my family, while still grappling with the existential fear that each summer gets hotter and hotter as we slowly kill the earth – I would have loved this movie. But it all seemed too real, too relatable, too tragic. Even now, as I write this review a few days after watching, I feel the sting of tears burning my eyes. This movie could send even the strongest person into a deep depressive episode because all of a sudden doomsday movies seem a little too realistic.
Silent night is a dark comedy if someone forgot to add the real comedy to it. I choose to see this movie simply as a way for Roman Griffin Davis to remind the world that he’s the best child actor of this generation, or maybe any generation.
Silent night premiered this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film will be released on December 3, 2021.
Discover our full coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Silent Night is a dark comedy if anyone forgot to add the real comedy to it
7.0 / 10