PG Score: 7/10
Silent Night was released in theaters on 12/3/21. It is available for streaming on AMC+ and can be rented on demand.
Despite operating under the guise of a Christmas movie and employing a sizable amount of dark comedy, Silent Night is a bleak affair through and through. Writer/Director Camille Griffin successfully juggles comedy, drama, and horror in her first directorial effort. She is aided by a star-studded cast and finishes strong with an engrossing final act.
The lean, 92-minute runtime centers on Nell (Keira Knightley), Simon (Matthew Goode), and their son, Art (Roman Griffin Davis) during a momentous Christmas dinner. Friends and family gather at their picturesque, English countryside home, but a palpable sense of dread fills the air as humanity faces imminent eradication.
Griffin displays multifaceted mastery as she integrates grim jokes with the horrific reality the characters are staring at. Where she differs from other directors who juggle several genres in their work is in her application of each one. Many filmmakers use comedy to lighten the mood created by drama or horror. Rather than have it function as a distraction, Griffin merely includes it as an added bonus. It is made abundantly clear from the beginning that there is no escaping the looming global obliteration, and the movie’s intensity is reflected accordingly. While the dialogue is good for a few laughs, the comedic interactions are never used to lessen the gravity of the situation. Silent Night does not pull any punches in its narrative, and its message challenges viewers to contemplate how they would react if mankind’s extinction was on the horizon.
The film raises questions about death that will likely make its audience uncomfortable. When thinking about life, it is human nature to reject all consideration of the opposite side of the coin. Shoot ‘em up flicks glamorize killing, but the average viewer does not give it a second thought since those scenarios are so far removed from their realm of existence. Griffin takes a much more grounded approach, which makes pondering these matters virtually unavoidable. While there are certainly emotional undercurrents running through every fiber of the movie, the deeper meaning is more cerebral.
Dialogue and Character Issues
For as much success as she finds in multiple areas, Griffin does not come out of her initial cinematic undertaking unscathed. Some of the conversations that occur, particularly in the second act, are somewhat dull. These instances feel like filler and cause the otherwise impactful slow-burning style to fizzle out. Additionally, a few underdeveloped characters accentuate the examples of uninteresting dialogue. Silent Night may only be an hour and a half, but the abbreviated length should not be an excuse for the disparity in screen time between roles.
The ensemble cast is loaded with star power. Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode both shine as the film’s primary power couple. Knightley gives an ardent performance as Nell, who maintains her liveliness even on the brink of total annihilation. Goode complements her passion with a calming portrayal of Simon, her relatively composed husband. Jojo Rabbit star Roman Griffin Davis (who happens to be the director’s son) notches another endearing performance as their son, Art. The young, capable actor brings charming wit and magnetic energy to the curious character.
Annabelle Wallis provides an entertaining portrayal as Sandra, the most uninhibited member of the friend group. Rufus Jones excels as her meek husband, Tony. Lily-Rose Depp gives an adequate depiction of Sophie, a newer addition to the circle with more at stake than meets the eye. Her significant other, James, is played by Sope Dirisu. The His House actor injects appropriate strength into the role as the character emits an unspoken courage. Lucy Punch delivers an amusing performance as Bella, who is the funniest of the bunch. This makes it all the more upsetting that she is deprived of sufficient screen time. Bella's enigmatic partner Alex, who is played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste, also suffers the same fate.
A Commendable Debut
Slight missteps aside, Camille Griffin begins her filmography with a bang. Instead of using humor to brighten the pitch-black material, her apocalyptic genre mash-up wholeheartedly welcomes the darkness. Silent Night is a thought-provoking and unapologetic debut that is sure to make Santa tremble in fear of doomsday.
PG Score: 7/10