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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 09.30.21] United Kingdom apocalyptic comedy drama

On the surface, Camille Griffin's feature film debut Silent Night looks and feels like your average holiday drama, the kind of movie you could watch with the family; a high-brow drama starring none other than Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode, two very recognizable actors who also happen to be immense talents. And while on paper this might sound family-friendly, don't be fooled. This is an intense apocalyptic drama with a pitch-black sense of humor.

Knightley and Goode play Simon and Nell, a couple who, with the help of their son Art, Jojo Rabbit's Roman Griffin Davis, are getting ready to welcome family friends for the holidays. It's the typical chaos you might expect but things begin to unravel pretty quickly; in an early scene, Art slices his finger while cutting some carrots and though this is not uncommon, what happens to those carrots soon turns into a pretty wicked running gag.

The guests are Simon and Nell's college friends and their partners: there are Sandra and Tony (Annabelle Wallis and Rufus Jones), a married couple with a daughter and a lot of history with the group, Bella and her somewhat-new girlfriend Alex (Lucy Punch and Kirby Howell-Baptiste respectively) who is clearly not thrilled about spending the holidays with friends she doesn't really care for, and James and Sophie (Sope Dirisu and Lily-Rose Depp) whose only real trouble appears to be that the rest of the women don't like Sophie because she's young.

From the moment the guests begin to arrive there's an air of tension about the house that only intensifies as we learn more about what brings them together. A pact of some sort - clearly - but the details are very vague. What's not vague are the cutting remarks and poignant observations made by the group that bickers, and talk like family: they clearly love each other but there's also resentment bubbling just below the surface. And then there's Art; apparently the most stable of all the characters, himself trying to navigate the unfolding events.

Griffin's script is a thing of beauty, a darkly hilarious bit of storytelling that captures the best and worst of humanity in a tiny capsule. It certainly helps that everyone involved, down to the obnoxious twins who play a small but rather hilarious role, give brilliantly measured performances.

While Silent Night might be a bit too mean for some, others, myself included, will find great entertainment in Griffin's poignant observations on humanity; and while it's a pretty dark bit of entertainment, it's not all doom and gloom.

Silent Night is certainly a welcome entry in my Christmas movie tradition.

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