‘Silent Night’: the most anti-Christmas (and gloomy) of Christmas movies

Happily married parents of three children, Nell (Keira Knightley) and her husband, Simon (Matthew Goode, ‘Downton Abbey’), annually celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas with their friends at the family’s mansion, located in the English countryside, a couple of hours from London.

Keira Knightley en ‘Silent Night’

This year, guests include her college friends, the cocky and chic Sandra (Annabelle Wallis, ‘Malignant’) and her good-natured husband, Tony (Rufus Jones); the handsome Nigerian doctor James (Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù, ‘Gangs of London’), whose beautiful American wife, Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp), is ten years younger than him – and whom all women distrust – as well as Bella ( Lucy Punch), accompanied by her spouse, Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste, ‘Cruella’); From the start, the enthusiasm of the hosts predicts that it will be a joyous celebration with abundant food, drink and bonhomie, although there is also something ominous about the atmosphere: when Christmas morning dawns, these four couples and their children will have died, and what you know.

That is why the impossible party of the perfect hostess breaks the mold and suddenly emerge some unexpected moments and revelations among her guests, thanks to the imminence of the catastrophe, which ends up demolishing – sometimes in a comical way, other tragically – the barriers of civilization with results that are as grim as they are exciting and, at times, inexplicably funny.

The easy way to describe ‘Silent Night’, the directorial debut of screenwriter Camille Griffin, would be to say that it is a mix of ‘Melancholia’ and ‘Love Actually’ with touches of ‘The Exterminating Angel’. But that would be to reduce this creative effort, whose intention is much more than that and that with a limited budget (for which it is fashionable today), a great cast and a script that, although not perfect, deals with common places. to show an extreme situation without falling (and he could do it more than once, the subject lends itself) into hysteria or drama.

That much of the story is leaked through the eyes of the hosts’ 11-year-old son, Art (Roman Griffin Davis, the unforgettable little great hero of ‘Jo-Jo Rabbit’), serves to show the incomprehensible and absurdity of the situation, which in light of his innocence is more chilling. Why does everyone who loves have to die? What about people who have no home or family? Why do their parents have to kill the children if they don’t want to die? – the questions that Art asks naively spread out and provoke a connection with the viewer, who will not be able to help but laugh (after all, it is a comedy) or be moved.

Keira Knightley en 'Silent Night'

Keira Knightley en ‘Silent Night’

There are apocalyptic movies of all kinds, and in fact Keira herself had acted in one (the bittersweet romantic comedy ‘Looking for a Friend for The End of The World’, with Steve Carell), but the concept of presenting the end of the world ( a poisonous gas of unknown origin runs through Europe, leaving a trail of destruction and death in its wake) in the context of Christmas (which yes, is the time of love, peace and brotherhood, but it is also recognized as the seasonal time in the that depression, anxiety and despair increase exponentially) works in a surprising way and soon we are also sitting at the table, witnesses and participants in scenes that are just as touching, that twitch the nerves.

The performances underpin – and even enhance – the script; the chemistry between Knightley and Goode is excellent and is reflected in the retort of their companions; especially interesting is Lily-Rose Depp (who is, by the way, identical to her mother, Vanessa Paradis), in a role that is not very well drawn on paper, but that brings out with palpable empathy, another who stands out is Rufus Jones (better known as a comedian in Britain) that represents with poise, sometimes just a gesture, the collapse of society and the reaction it provokes in those who followed its rules.

Keira Knightley en 'Silent Night'

Matthew Goode en ‘Silent Night’

Perhaps the biggest problem with an apocalyptic work is that from the outset – here we only find out after a few minutes – one already knows what the outcome implies; Despite this trap that weighs on the structure that she built (and that for a first film is not bad at all), Camille Griffin manages to mix emotions in such a way that (most of) the characters matter to us and involve us in your dilemma.

Unlike ‘Titane’ (the winning film of the Palme D’Or in Cannes, directed by Julia DuCornau), where the pieces that compose it are brilliant, but as a whole they do not manage to make an eloquent story (it slips and no longer rises), here yes, the total is as good as the sum of its parts, leaving as a sample a solid and well-made film, with defects, yes, but they do not weigh more than its virtues.

‘Silent Night’ is only 90 minutes long, but to that extent the director, her cast, and cinematographer Sam Renton do much more than others have accomplished with larger, higher-budget films. [por cierto, una de las productoras de esta película es nada menos que la supermodelo alemana Claudia Schiffer, junto con su marido, el cineasta Matthew Vaughn].

For the viewer who likes warm and romantic Christmas movies, this film can be disconcerting, but for those who like experiments with tone and genre and who can see beyond marketing campaigns, taking risks with more daring proposals, it can be a different experience than usual, and in a time when almost everything belongs to franchises and superhero ‘universes’, a more original story about people like one in an extraordinary situation, makes it worth going to a room of cinema to see it.

‘Silent Night’ (‘The last night’) opens in theaters on December 22.

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‘Silent Night’: the most anti-Christmas (and gloomy) of Christmas movies