It is the holiday season, and you know you and everyone you know is probably going to die in the morning…what do you do? What a wonderfully morbid premise for a film! Writer-director Camille Griffin turns a generally awkward get together of an extended family into a whole other beast entirely when you throw the wrench in that a poisonous cloud is coming that is supposed to kill all in a most violent and painful way. In this strongly defined three act film confined to one house for the holidays, Silent Night delivers a holiday film that you will not quickly forget.
But how does Griffin make the most of this intriguing premise? Plenty of ideas are tackled in this film. The moral decisions that all of the characters are forced to confront are morally grey and thought-provoking. Would you take a chance on this cloud…or take a suicide pill offered by the government? Should you trust the judgment of scientists and the government? That idea hits in a whole other way due to the pandemic that we have (and are still) experiencing. Then throw in the layer that what should you do with your children. Should you make that decision for them or leave that opportunity up to them? All these ideas are tackled regularly through this film. Along with delivering some tough decisions and emotionally impactful scenes of characters dealing with the finality of their lives, there are plenty of laughs along the way. Griffin struggles to find balance between drama and humor in this but generally…I laughed A LOT.
Does Griffin deliver a compelling narrative to match these big ideas? The first act of the film is a standard, yet hilarious awkward holiday. Everyone has an opinion of everyone else and there is plenty of history between them all. The natural charm and chemistry of the cast really soars here as they play well off each other. This sequence of the film is (mostly) fun and there is some decent tension thrown in because of some of the relationships. The kids don’t like each other and one of the friend’s much younger girlfriends causes plenty of awkwardness. Griffin does the fine job of subtle hints that something is different and off about this get together. The second act soars in as the characters begin to confront the idea of them all dying in the morning. This is where the emotion and tension begin to rise as the son of the main couple breaks down due to the impending doom and then all the adults confront plenty of awkwardness from their past. The adults steal the show here as the drama and awkwardness is so well done. Then tragedy strikes leading into the finale as some awkwardly placed humor tries to cut the tension of the proceedings. This is where the film really takes a dark turn, and the tone just doesn’t fit completely with the rest of the film. There is certainly some strong emotion though.
How does the cast work within this darkly funny drama along the way? It is best to break things down by family…so let’s get started! Keira Knightly is the straight woman to most of the characters and does a great job as a determined and protective mother as Matthew Goode plays her husband who is constantly trying to hide the gravity of their situation and keep a stiff upper lip. Roman Griffin Davis of Jojo Rabbit fame and son of the director delivers an impressively mature performance that delivers some of strongest emotion in all the film. Then you have Annabelle Wallis who is a swinging spirit who used to sleep all around (and is the focal point of the mid-act drama). Wallis has plenty of charisma to light up the screen and Rufus Jones plays her cuckhold husband quite well. Lily-Rose Depp plays the young girlfriend who does a fine job of stirring the pot as well as featuring one of the more emotional subplots in the film. Her youth is not apparent as she holds her own with the rest of the strong cast. Finally, Kimberly Howell-Baptiste and Lucy Punch portray a lesbian couple who provide plenty of laughs and charm to cut the tension in the film.
Will Silent Night go down as a new classic holiday flick for the season? Not quite. Griffin does deliver a strong outing here with emotion, big ideas, and plenty of laughs. This impressive ensemble really makes the film even if the film buckles a bit under the weight of its lofty ideas. This will send you on quite the emotional ride.