Picture “Seeking A Friend for the End of the World” mixed with “Melancholia” and garnished with a dash of Christmas cheer, and you’ll get “Silent Night,” Camille Griffin‘s directorial debut about humanity’s last night on Earth. The film blends dark humor with sobering drama, and the end result is an extremely bleak holiday movie that could perhaps become a tradition in certain acerbic households.
The story unfolds in the stately country home of Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode), where the couple’s best friends (Sope Dirisu, Lily-Rose Depp, Lucy Punch, Annabelle Wallis, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Dora Davis, and Rufus Jones) have gathered to celebrate the Yuletide — and the end of the world. There’s a massive cloud of poison gas slowly consuming the globe, and death is so certain that the government has provided all citizens with their own personal suicide pills when the time arises. These revelers have a low-key evening, chatting and drinking and playing charades with their mates and their children (Roman Griffin Davis, Davida McKenzie), trying mightily to forget mankind’s impending doom.
I didn’t find much to like about this movie. The concept is very shallow, and screenwriter (also Griffin) stretches the script too thin. It’s a very chatty film, with a great deal of tiresome dialogue and equally uninteresting characters who are privileged and insufferable (turns out there’s actually a point to their considerable unlikeability, but it still hurts the momentum). It feels like a mumblecore project that’s too long and lacking material, pushing tiresome themes about class and societal advantages. Even the surprises are forced and expected, which leads to more disappointment as a viewer.
Nothing of any importance really happens until the film’s halfway mark, and Griffin is successful at building just enough suspense to keep audiences engaged. I was unsure where the endgame was until close to the very end, thanks to some cagey horror and sci-fi vibes. At least the most compelling (and shocking) piece of the story isn’t revealed too quickly.
Griffin is not afraid to push her story as far as possible, and there’s something admirable about that. Since the best parts of the film come from its unexpected elements, it’s best to know very little about the plot before sitting down to watch. “Silent Night” may still disappoint, but at least the prime details won’t be ruined.
This film was screened for review at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
By: Louisa Moore