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'Silent Night' Review: A clumsy festive failure


The fine line between tragedy and comedy has always been a line well-trodden by the British sense of humour, be it in Mike Leigh’s Life is Sweet or as recently as Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. It’s a delicate balancing act that involves precise control of character, as the cast dodge the tragedies of modern life whilst injecting the story with their own, often dark, sense of humour. It’s a memo that Silent Night director Camille Griffin must have missed in her clumsy Christmas film that reminds you of all the terrors of the festive season without any of the joy. 

In an attempt to hoodwink the audience, Griffin’s film begins like any other throwaway Christmas tale, as several groups of close friends converge at a remote mansion filled with noisy children, elaborate decorations and the promise of a bountiful table of food. Hosted by Nell (Keira Knightley) and her husband, Simon (Matthew Goode), the couple must contend with their rebellious child, Art (Roman Griffin Davis), whilst juggling the demands of their guests as well as a mysterious existential threat. 

In the same vein as her central cast of characters, Camille Griffin also attempts to juggle the tonal chaos of her film, as it clumsily slips from poorly written comedy to ill-judged horror to light-hearted festive fun. As if a Frankenstein’s monster of several different films, Griffin quickly loses control, with the film descending into a needlessly bleak, emotionally manipulative nightmare.

Whilst the film’s central twist should be somewhat concealed, it all revolves around an existential environmental crisis that just so happens to threaten the future of humanity on the dawn of Christmas day, with the government providing strict guidance on how to manage such a catastrophe. Sound familiar? Whilst the filmmaker is insistent on the film’s production well before the Coronavirus pandemic, it is simply impossible not to see Silent Night in the context of the life-changing catastrophe, where it occupies a genuinely problematic position. 

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Armed with a clear anti-establishment message, Silent Night intends to question the structure and validity of governmental decisions without the necessary weight to initiate its argument truly. As such, the film presents a genuinely dangerous position, particularly given the current state of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, where it seems to suggest that anti-vaxxers may have a point. 

Director Camille Griffin has made this abundantly clear that this is not the case, stating in the press notes that the film is “NOT questioning the reliance of medical science,” though whilst this may be true, Silent Night remains a contentious film for these difficult times. 

Spiked with little cinematic ambition or drive, the story clunks through its short runtime with jarring tediousness as it drives home its limp political message with lame conviction. Surrendering to their governmental leaders, the characters of the film fade into redundancy, as Silent Night concludes with a needlessly bleak and emotionally manipulative final act that staggeringly miscalculates the sentiment of contemporary British society. 

Though it should be well documented that Camille Griffin’s film was conceived long before the existence of Covid-19, this simply doesn’t excuse its release with such problematic opinions towards modern life. Armed with an imprecise, faltering political subtext, Silent Night flounders to its nonsensical conclusion with no thematic conviction, to ultimately confine itself to the very worst of festive cinema. 

'Silent Night' - Camille Griffin