Dir.: Camille Griffin; Cast: Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Roman Griffin Davies, Hardy Griffin Davies, Gilby Griffin Davis, Annabelle Wallis, Rufus Jones, Davida McKenzie, Lucy Punch, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Sopé Dirisu, Lily-Rose Depp; UK 2020, 90 min.
Silent Night is one of those plucky B-Pictures, with lots of ideas – not always fully realised – and a surreal plot. In this case the setting is in an English country mansion where friends from school and university are celebrating a time of “love and forgiveness”. But they will have to make the most of their get together because – according to News reports, a poisonous gas will soon engulf the planet exterminating everything alive. The government is giving out ‘Exit-pills’, to relieve the suffering – sounds familiar, eh?
The hosts, Nell (Knightley) and Simon (Goode) are in charge of catering, their son Art (Roman Griffin Davis) cuts himself slicing the carrots. As it turns out, he’ll be in the minority, not wanting to accept the need for the government prescribed pill. Art’s twin brothers Hardy and Thomas (Hardy and Gilby Griffin Davies) are nowhere to be seen, but go with the flow making life for their parents easier. Then the guest roll in two by two, creating a reverse Noah’s Ark effect. Sandra (Wallis) self-centred and attention seeking with hubby Tony (Jones), candidate for ‘Mediocre Man’ of the universe and daughter Kitty (McKenzie), as unbearable as her mother.
Lesbian couple Bella (Punch) and Alex (Howell-Baptiste) are here to enjoy themselves, laid-back medic James (Dirisu) has issues with much his younger partner Sophie (Depp), an American, who is pregnant and joins Art in defiance.
Nell and Simon are proper hosts, trying to cater to everyone’s whim – whilst fighting a losing battle with Art, who will run off deep into the night where he will come across a car packed with the bodies of neighbours who have taken the pills, something Art wants to avoid at all cost.
As the hour of ‘no return’ creeps nearer, James wins the battle of wills with Sophie, whilst Sandra and Tony also make peace just in time, giving their daughter a peaceful exit. But Bella has big problems with Alex who gets so drunk she passes out. Bella administers the pill to her sleeping lover who wakes up and vomits the pill out. Alone in the kitchen with Alex Bella has to come up with a radical solution.- everyone else has retreated to their bedrooms, including Art who is asleep in his mother’s arms, the twins keeping up their personal rivalry to the bitter end.
There are simply too many characters here to given them a convincing backstory and make us feel for their desperate plight, although the leads – especially Knightley and Goode are impressive, and Art, the director’s son and his real life brothers Thomas and Hardy – give the cowardly grown-ups a run for their money.
Simon’s sermon to his children “It’s not our fault, nor is it yours”, rings very hollow but DoP Sam Renton makes the best out of the glittering claustrophobia of the domestic settings and the group interactions are entertaining particularly the hilarious scene where the adults discuss who slept with whom and why at university. A major twist at the end makes us forget some of the shortcomings – it may not totally win you over, but lovers of the bizarre are well served. AS
IN CINEMAS from 3 December 2021