Brits reunite for one last Christmas before the Apocalypse

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In “Silent Night,” first-time writer-director Camille Griffin wickedly weaves holiday flicks and doomsday flicks, but once the shock of that juxtaposition wears off, we’re left with a pudding, despite the most valiant efforts of a sharp ensemble.

Part “When the Wind Blows” (the grim 1986 animated feature film about Britons keeping calm and continuing in the face of a nuclear disaster) and part “Peter’s Friends” (the 1992 Kenneth Branagh comedy about schoolmates gathering in a big house for the holidays for drinking too much and opening up old wounds), “Silent Night” brings together a group of family and friends to celebrate Christmas – only at midnight, Santa does not come. Instead, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are programmed.

Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode) are having Christmas at their charming country house and, as usual, they have invited their closest friends: high society assholes Tony (Rufus Jones, “Stan and Ollie “) and Sandra (Annabelle Wallis,” Malignant “), Abrasive Bella (Lucy Punch,” Into the Woods “) and her soft-spoken girlfriend Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste,” Cruella “), and Doctor James ( Sope Dirisu, “Gangs of London”) and his American partner Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp). Everything seems quite normal, until Sandra mentions spending her daughter Kitty’s college funds (Davida McKenzie) on a new pair of shoes, and Nell sends Simon and Tony breaking into a local store to steal one. dessert.

This Christmas, apparently, will be everyone’s last – the poison gas tornadoes spawned by climate change will wipe out humanity, and after midnight they all decided to take their government-distributed poison capsules and commit suicide. (Or as the calm and collected official site says a character visits, “Take your exit pill and die with dignity.”) The holiday picture is marred by Art, the eldest son of Nell and Simon (Roman Griffin Davis , “Jojo Rabbit”), who has doubts about taking his pill, although adults all reassure him that the science is solid and that dying from airborne toxins will be much more painful and horrible.

Looming disaster dinner comedies have become a staple among budget filmmakers in recent years, though the genre’s grandfather remains Don McKellar’s “Last Night,” which offers some Toronto exteriors but still takes place primarily in the interior of houses and apartments. Griffin and cinematographer Sam Renton make the most of the comfortable location of production designer Franckie Diago – twinkling lights abound as the world behind their windows crumbles.

The storyline, however, doesn’t go far enough to turn these types of characters into characters; there’s little impression of how this group acts any differently in the face of an impending demise than at any other Christmas, and while Griffin finds the comedy in the mundane details (even in the apocalypse, all the world will cling firmly to her food and drink preferences), people here are all assured, even though these talented performers provide as much inner life as possible. (The cast also includes Griffin Davis’ younger twin brothers as siblings of Art Thomas and Hardy.)

There are, at least, delightful moments of thorny interaction: Nell, Sandra, and Bella have a shared history stretching back decades, and the trio of actresses very skillfully summons the jokes and resentments of the past into their scenes together. . Sadly, a potentially interesting subplot for James and Sophie has barely started, and Alex is clearly Chekhov’s alcoholic – when her sobriety is mentioned in the first act, it is only a matter of time before she does. hits the prosecco.

And getting too deep into the issues of what’s going on outside and how to interpret it is to find even more flaws in the storyline. It’s a film that, accidentally or intentionally, could be interpreted as a champion or a satire of those with an anti-science bent, but as “Silent Night” offers conflicting evidence on the severity of the impending environmental disaster, all that doesn’t make a lot of sense at all. The ambiguity, in this case, is less intriguing than confusing.

Still, Griffin juggles her many characters well, and she’s very smart at arming the comfort of Christmas Movies make uncomfortable remarks. “Silent Night” may end up being a successful calling card for her (as a director if not as a screenwriter), but for all the beautiful packaging, it’s mostly an empty box.

“Silent Night” will premiere on AMC + fall / winter 2021.


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