Silent Night

Silent Night – a razor-sharp and darkly delicious festive delight


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Silent Night arrives in UK cinemas on the 3rd of December and on digital platforms from the 6th of December.

Nothing says the end of the world like being home for the holidays with the whole family, right? That’s how Keira Knightley’s Nell sees it, hosting a final festive gathering before an apocalyptic waste cloud spreads across the UK. Fortunately, a painless pill has been issued to prevent what’s sure to be a horrific death if they can stop themselves from tearing one another apart first. 

Director Camille Griffin’s distinct approach to the festive film focuses less on the traditional ‘happy family at Christmas’ and instead opts to uncover an unspoken truth: sometimes, Christmas with your family is an absolute nightmare. It’s an approach that dovetails with the small but solid sub-genre of ‘anti-Christmas’ films, including The Children,  Better Watch Out and Gremlins


We all buy into the illusion of a peaceful Christmastime, often ignoring the hushed arguments echoing down corridors and secrets spilt after too much wine. Griffin’s cavalcade includes Nell’s increasingly-frustrated husband Simon (Matthew Goode) and their hilariously argumentative son Art (played by the ever-charming Roman Griffin Davis) sisters Bella (Lucy Punch) and Sandra (Annabelle Wallis), with their big personalities in tow. Meanwhile, outside of the immediate family, there’s Sandra’s husband Tony (Rufus Jones) – the pure embodiment of a milquetoast man; dashing university friend James (Sope Dìrísù), and Bella’s girlfriend Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and James’ girlfriend Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp); all trapped on the fringes of this middle-class family. 

Silent Night
Lucy Punch as Bella, Hardy Griffin Davis as Hardy, Roman Griffin Davis as Art, Gilby Griffin Davis as Thomas, Keira Knightley as Nell, Matthew Goode as Simon, Annabelle Wallis as Sandra, Davida McKenzie as Kitty, Rufus Jones as Tony, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Alex, Sope Dirisu as James – Silent Night – Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/AMC+

Silent Night is quite possibly the most fantastic ensemble we have seen in any Christmas film since Love Actually, with every performer bringing their A-game to the narrative. Somehow, Griffin is able to make every single performer stand out and shine in their own way. For example, Matthew Goode’s comedic timing is impeccable, while Punch and Wallis are stellar choices as the outspoken sisters. Here Nell’s home turns into a blithesome battlefield, with expletives shot back-and-forth at one another at an incredible rate as secrets are uncorked and dispensed. The result is a bristling pressure cooker of macabre humour as the family settle into the inevitability of their apocalyptic end, each person attempting to cope with it in their own way.

Some seek a long-sought carnal celebration, whilst others want to play a game of Scrabble and forget about the horror ahead. At one point, Simon and Tony return from robbing a Waitrose of its entire supply of sticky toffee puddings to a celebration of their criminal prowess. After all, if you’re facing the end of the world, you can’t do it without a good pudding. 

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Griffin’s world is built on various socio-political themes as the forthcoming apocalypse nears. Here we find government websites with startlingly explicit depictions of how the toxic gas will gradually kill you. While at the same time, the deceptive over-the-counter packaging of ‘The Pill’ is disarmingly hilarious. In all of these touches, Griffin cleverly reflects themes of climate change, pandemics and government mistrust; for example, at one point, when reflecting on the government, it’s announced, “of course, I don’t trust them; they killed Diana!” But, despite the hilarity, Griffin also conjures a creeping existential dread at the heart of this middle-class family. 

There’s an unimaginable scale to the gas cloud that feels monolithic as it engulfs a desolate London. For a moment, you forget you’re watching a black Christmas comedy as Silent Night becomes a disaster movie in scale and vision, from the slow destructive pace of the toxic cloud to a slow-building sense of dread as each character attempts to maintain a British stiff upper lip. But this attempt gradually cracks, revealing their paralyzing fear. Here the children’s experience of watching their parents unravel is particularly disturbing, as it feels all too relatable. The kids can’t comprehend death, but they can understand the safety net of their lives gradually disintegrating. 

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The horror of Silent Night sits within an inescapable fact; death is unavoidable. Here the children inhabit an uncomfortable void, their futures denied, while the adults confront their mortality as they desperately try to maintain a sense of calm. However, in many ways, the cloud has already suffocated them with anxiety, creating a much slower death than what’s to come. But if all this sounds incredibly sombre, Griffin manages to balance the horror with hilarity ensuring Silent Night never becomes overwhelmingly tragic.

Silent Night is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year and one of the best Christmas films for quite some time. Griffin joyously creates a danse macabre between Christmas spirit and collective suicide in an inspired movie. And when you add to the mix a delightful cornucopia of actors, Silent Night becomes a razor-sharp and darkly delicious festive delight.


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