Silent Night: Film Review

Altitude

This holiday season, Camille Griffin brings us a Christmas film with an apocalyptic twist – yes, really – so it’s probably not one to watch if you want to get in the festive spirit.

This ensemble black comedy/horror follows Nell (Keira Knightley) and her husband Simon (Matthew Goode) as they have their friends over for Christmas. It is their last hurrah as a toxic gas cloud is approaching and set to sweep over the land the following day. The group has to decide whether or not to take the government-issued suicide pill for a painless way out before the cloud arrives.

This film was shot in February 2020 and Griffin, who wrote the screenplay, could never have imagined the parallels her directorial debut would have with real-world events. Watching Silent Night, you can’t help but wonder what you would do in that situation – believe the government and take the Exit pill or wait and see if the cloud is as deadly as it’s proclaimed to be.

I was thrilled by the concept – it’s like a festive This is the End with upper-class Brits – and believed it held a lot of promise. I was really keen on it at the start; I enjoyed meeting all the different characters and figuring out their relationships and was amused listening to them having a bitch and gossip about each other. The arrivals section was the funniest and most well-written part of the film and I had high hopes for the ensuing day. I didn’t dislike what came next but I found it tonally uneven and felt like Griffin struggled to strike the right balance between the comedy and horror. The comedy practically tails off as the horror ramps up and I would have preferred the final act to be slightly more light-hearted.

Silent Night is very much an ensemble piece and every cast member brings something to the table. One of my favourites was Annabelle Wallis as the bitchy and self-involved Sandra who is admittedly annoying but still the most interesting as she decides to clear the air about certain issues on her final day on Earth. Knightley plays the warm, charming and likeable host, Goode gets a big emotional moment as her husband and Jojo Rabbit’s Roman Griffin Davis (the son of Griffin and cinematographer Ben Davis) is impressive here as the main opponent of the Exit pill. His real brothers – and the director’s twins Hardy and Gilby – play his onscreen brothers too. The child stars are excellent but I wish them swearing wasn’t played for laughs quite so much.

They all have solid support from Sope Dirisu as their sensible doctor friend James, Lily-Rose Depp as his significantly younger girlfriend Sophie; Lucy Punch as the outspoken, brutally honest friend Bella, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as her awkward girlfriend Alex, and Rufus Jones as Sandra’s “boring” husband Tony. They all do a fantastic job, even though their characters aren’t particularly deep and there were a few aspects of their backstories I would have liked elaborated on.

I came away from Silent Night not knowing quite what to make of it. It’s a mixed bag and quite an odd piece. Some people may find it hits too close to home due to the pandemic, but others may revel in this subversive and bleak anti-Christmas film.

In cinemas Friday 3rd December

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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