Written by: Camille Griffin
Starring: Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Roman Griffin Davis, Annabelle Wallis, Lily-Rose Depp
Going through scenarios of what one would do if the world would come to an end makes for good party chatter as it demonstrates what one values in life. Whether it be family, loved ones, or experiences, knowing there will not be a tomorrow allows for a level of carelessness and dropping of decorum, which Silent Night tries to capture, but does not necessarily succeed as it becomes a film not nearly as hard-hitting as it believes itself to be.
With the end of the world imminent through the release of a gas that will wipe out the human race, Nell (Keira Knightley) and her immediate and distant relatives come together for one last Christmas gathering before offing themselves with government-issued pills. As they gather for the upcoming apocalypse, hidden truths and feelings get shared with the reality of there being no tomorrow.
When a film receives the description of being incredibly messed up through its subject matter and harsh humor, a certain level of expectation begins to form. Silent Night came with this expectation and for the most part, it’s a fairly middling apocalypse movie that fails to make any particularly interesting observations and exists to make for some awkwardly humorous moments that mostly do not work. The film tries to capture a certain sense of desperation that comes with realizing the end of the world will inevitably take their lives, but it never really manifests anything interesting. In a sense, the film holds back from what it could have actually done as a criticism of society but instead, it’s fairly weak.
One of the larger societal issues comes from the privilege Art has compared to others where the government-issued suicide pills were given to all English citizens except for the homeless and the immigrants. A thread the film could have followed but does not necessarily expand upon other than through the perspective of Art. Something underdeveloped and adds a different value, especially when compared to the affluent family the film follows. A fairly light brushing, which would make sense if the film featured some strong humor to paper the cracks. Unfortunately, we did not receive that especially when the expectation of it being a “fucked up” comedy gets placed upon it. You could almost see where they could have pushed the envelope but it remains just a boring feature overall. Nothing about it pierces societal norms except for some small barbs barely leaving a mark.
Perhaps people would lose their minds over the fact these children cursed on several occasions throughout the feature in some disturbing ways, but it did nothing but elicit a slight shrug on those rare occurrences. It just leaves the question of trying to discern this film’s purpose because it doesn’t necessarily succeed in any element of its production. The writing left much to be desired with the execution of its premise and the character interactions. It just boggles the mind because this film had the potential to be much more ruthless in its examinations of its characters but decides to just capture the most uninteresting aspects of what they could have discussed.
If the premise does not pull audiences in, perhaps the cast assembled for it would. Joining the crew along with Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode are some very fun actors who were just left waffling for air with the lack of quality material. No one felt more wasted than Lucy Punch, who normally knocks it out of the park with her criminally minimal roles. The same goes for the likes of Annabelle Wallis, and all others. This screenplay could have given them so much more to chew on but were left with scraps.
Meeting the expectations set for a film always becomes tricky, but Silent Night truly disappointed as it did not deliver on anything remotely funny, piercing or engaging. Considering it comes as a directorial debut, some of the visual elements certainly demonstrated a level of proficiency but with a story meant to feel somewhat claustrophobic and awkward, the writing becomes incredibly important to its success and this feature simply falls short in delivering in this aspect and therefore it sinks the whole project. Listen, it’s the end of the world which meant this feature could have truly gone to some uncomfortable places but instead it kept its gloves on and made for such unengaging conversations.