Review: Silent Night

This apocalpytic satire, the debut feature of Camille Griffin, seems stuck somewhere between existential melodrama and biting social commentary, mainly because the unidentified crisis that determines the actions on screen isn’t explicated enough to make the viewer really care. As the title suggests, it’s Christmas season and a well-to-do couple, Nell and Simon (Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode), are entertaining other well-to-do friends at Nell’s mother’s spacious English country estate. Everybody brings their families, which means there are lots of children on hand to join in the…well, not celebration, though everyone tries their best to enjoy the seasonal spirit. At first, the film’s purposely artificial cheery mood, undermined by a current of dread, draws the viewer into the hackneyed holiday movie mood, and one almost expects Chevy Chase-level hijinks to ensue in pursuit of laughs at the expense of this mood. 

But the dread slowly creeps to the fore, even as the revellers continue to try and act normal, playing Scrabble, singing songs, getting drunk, and digging into their meal with forced gusto. The exceptions are some of the children, especially the hosts’ young son, Art (Roman Griffin Davis), who surveys the party with an air of increasing frustration and, eventually, anger. There’s also a pregnant guest who gives the game away by defending her decision to not abort her child even though there is no future for it. It seems that the adults—or, at least, most of them—are resigned to an ugly fate simply because the authorities have convinced them of this fate, but the particulars of the coming crisis are only sketched out in the most rudimentary ways, and I, for one, couldn’t understand why anyone would possibly go along with it unless the director had some pointed political agenda in mind. Even with that it’s difficult to decide just how much she distrusts any government control over the collective factors that affect our lives. Is climate change beyond anyone’s reach, or does following protocols dictated from on high to check a deadly pandemic make one less human? 

It’s obvious that, as the party winds down and everything turns solemn and desperate, these people are being led into a scenario that doesn’t have to happen and that the only reason they are going into it is because they have no free will, which is a ridiculous premise, especially when you realize the only characters resisting it are the children. I can understand the innocent wisdom of babes, but this whole situation takes way too much for granted. Adults, even rich, selfish ones, aren’t this uniformly stupid. 

Now playing in Tokyo at Cinemart Shinjuku (03-5369-2831), Human Trust Cinema Shibuya (03-5468-5551).

Silent Night home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2020 SN Movie Holdings Ltd

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