Monday, November 29, 2021

SILENT NIGHT (2021) Movie Review



Silent Night (2021) d. Camille Griffin (UK) (92 min)

With Michael BublĂ© blaring through the soundtrack, far-flung members of a British family converge on the moneyed country homestead of Nell (Keira Knightly) and Simon (Matthew Goode) for the Christmas holiday. Her posh sister Sandra (Annabelle Wallis) arrives with her soft-hearted and soft-bodied husband Tony (Rufus Jones) and holy terror offspring Kitty (Davida McKenzie) in tow, while her other sibling Bella (Lucy Punch) sails along with partner Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), taking odds as to how long before one of them needs to drink themselves into a stupor. The final party to arrive is schoolmate chum James (Sope Dirusu) with his younger girlfriend Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp), who have a rather portentous announcement to make. Rounding out the crew are Nell and Simon’s eldest son Art (Roman Griffin Davis) and their younger twins Thomas (Gilby Griffin Davis) and Hardy (Hardy Griffin Davis), all of whom swear like longshoremen and add lively color to the proceedings. This eclectic cast of characters squeeze in tight for an evening of “truth, forgiveness, and love,” a holiday they will never forget.

Because it’s the last one they will ever see.

"Wait... what?"
(mild spoilers to follow)

You see, a global cloud of toxic gas is moving across the continent, laying agonizing waste to everything in its path and it is slated to arrive at the British Isles on this fateful night. News reports from around the world proclaim and confirm the worst fears: There are no survivors and there is no escape. To that end, the government has issued each of its citizens a suicide pill in order to “Die with Dignity” (except for the homeless and illegal immigrants, since they don’t officially exist).


As the hour draws nigh, we watch the universal drama play out in miniature as Nell and her family put on their bravest and brightest to enjoy the occasion and celebrate their lives up until this point, knowing full well this is the final chapter to be writ. They reminisce, quarrel, steal, laugh, cry, flirt, and rage, with nothing left to lose yet still hoping to wrap things up on a positive note. All except Art, who stares his elders down with resentment and fury that they have allowed the world (and his future) to reach this unwelcome state. “Greta [Thunberg] was right!” he exclaims at one point, and we cannot help but share his outrage and their guilt.


Writer/director Griffin (who also happens to be the mother of Jojo Rabbit’s breakout star Griffin Davis and his younger real-life siblings) walks a comedic tragedy tightrope over the course of the 90-minute runtime, allowing existential dread and absurdist hilarity to trade beats on the dance floor. Leading the uniformly excellent cast, top-billed Knightly strikes the perfect balance, with an earnest “make the best of it” spirit providing the thinnest gossamer veil over her abject terror and yawning misery, while Goode (so memorable in Park Chan-wook’s Stoker) is the loving empathetic patriarch, his frozen smile shielding his palpable helplessness.


Every member of the ensemble is given a chance to shine, from Dirusu (His House) and Depp’s solidarity against the group’s passive aggressive disapproval of their relationship to Howell-Baptiste’s weary acceptance of her outsider position (Black, Lesbian, Non-Family), as well as a small, touching cameo from Trudie Styler (who also produced alongside The Kingsman’s Matthew Vaughn).


My only quibble lies in the film’s (very) final moment, which takes the well-wrought realism into the realm of supernatural horror in a literal blink of an eye. Some may thrill and cheer at the decision; I could not help but groan at this original and vivid premise taking a turn for the cliched. It’s not so misguided as to undo all the good that has gone before, even as it leaves an unnecessary unpleasant fruitcake aftertaste that could easily have been avoided.


Silent Night will premiere in theaters from AMC+ and RLJE Films on December 3, as well as streaming exclusively on AMC+.

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2 comments:

  1. Hey man, good to see you're still posting. Been a weird year or so. Love to connect sometime. Been watching tons and tons of movies.
    t in berwyn

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    1. Hey, T! Sorry it's taken me a while to come back on here to see this! I will drop you an email soon... as well as the annual year-end blatherfest. Hope you are well!

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