Synopsis: Nell, Simon, and their boy Art are ready to welcome friends and family for what promises to be a perfect Christmas gathering. Perfect except for one thing: everyone is going to die.
Stars: Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Roman Griffin Davis, Annabelle Wallis, Lily-Rose Depp, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Davida McKenzie, Rufus Jones, Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù, Lucy Punch, Holly Aird, Trudie Styler, Dora Davis, Gilby Griffin Davis, Hardy Griffin Davis
Director: Camille Griffin
Running Length: 92 minutes
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: Every now and then I find that I run into a bit of a crisis as a reviewer. Here’s the situation I face. There’s a movie I’ve seen which I know is worth a look, yet I have trouble with an outright recommendation because there’s something about it which could turn the viewer against it and, by proxy, me. I don’t want you to end up hating me and “ghosting” my webpage in the future. Obviously, if this was my full-time job and I was getting paid for my thoughts I would have less trouble just churning these musings out without worry but I sort of, y’know, care about you and your trust in me so I’m going to be always upfront.
In the spirt of that message (and the season) I need to tell you the new Christmas-set UK film Silent Night is one of the most unrepentantly bleak movies you’ll encounter this year or any year in recent memory. Dealing with a family that gathers at a secluded country estate for a yuletide celebration on the eve of a population-ending event, one they all know is coming, there’s an invisible ticking clock hanging over the ninety-minute film which makes it feel both too short and never ending at the same time. Timed for release on the second Christmas the world is spending in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a well-made but unsettling drama offering none of the easy-outs you may be expecting.
For Christmas this year, everyone attending Nell and Simon’s gathering has been asked to bring one important item…their own suicide pills. Due to an environmental catastrophe which has sent a cloud of toxic gas throughout the land, all humans will perish, and it’s set to hit British soil on Christmas. This is known. There is no escape. The most humane way to deal with it, and not suffer the horrific effects of dying by the gas, is to take the pills issued by the government with your loved one and die quickly rather than painfully. First though, there’s a feast to be had and the guests are arriving.
In addition to Nell (Keira Knightley, A Dangerous Method), Simon (Matthew Goode, Stoker), their eldest son Art (Roman Griffin Davis, Jojo Rabbit) and their twin boys, the revelers include steely Sandra (Annabelle Wallis, Malignant) who is bringing her less than well-liked daughter, fun-loving lesbian Bella (Lucy Punch, Into the Woods) and her more button-downed wife (Alex Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Cruella), and reflective James (Sopé Dìrísù, His House) and his newly pregnant wife Sophie (Lily Rose-Depp, Wolf). Not everyone is so sure about taking the pill, Sophie is about to bring new life into the world and maybe wants to wait to see if the gas is survivable, Art doesn’t want to have his parents decide his fate for him. Various points throughout the night provoke stark questions about death, human rights, and who has the ultimate choice about existence.
Director Camille Griffin (mother of Roman who plays Art) makes a wonderful debut that’s as challenging to watch as it is interesting to debate. It’s meant to be a conversation starter and boy is it ever. It’s certainly a well-made movie, just horribly sad and without much reprieve throughout. I can’t lie and say it has the rosiest of endings but can offer a shred of light and say that in ending the way it does, there are lessons to be learned that we can all benefit from in some way. Is Silent Night one to consider swapping out one of your Christmas favorites for? Not a chance. However, maybe you can wait until March or April to try this out one…unless you enjoy the sadness the holidays can bring.