By: Kayla Caldwell
SILENT NIGHT is like if at the end of a Hallmark Christmas movie, someone came out of nowhere, and kicked you in the gut. Written and directed by Camille Griffin, SILENT NIGHT is delightfully strange as it begins, first with everyone driving to a family/friends Christmas party as the King of Christmas himself, Michael Bublé, plays. Everything seems cheery, even if everyone isn’t exactly thrilled to be attending. Then we see a young boy named Art (Roman Griffin Davis) cut his finger while trying to cut carrots, after which, at least two people eat pieces of the produce covered in blood.
The blood is, however, appropriate, seeing as there is plenty of carnage on the way. That’s because this will be the last Christmas any of them will ever see. The world is ending, in a cloud of poisonous gas, and the British government has even given [some] families pills so they can painlessly end their lives, rather than slowly succumbing to the poison.
Knowing the apocalypse is upon them, it makes a lot more sense that they sent the husbands to steal sticky toffee pudding from the local gas station, that they all only had one tiny potato each at dinner, and that these young kids are allowed to curse in front of their parents. It also makes you wonder - Would you really go to some party you didn’t want to be at if you knew it would be the last party of your life?
Guests start arriving, including couple James (Sope Dirisu) and Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp), of which the latter is definitely the outsider. Everyone eavesdrops as they have an argument, likely about his choice to attend this party where no one likes her. Sophie’s still dealing with the traumatizing previous night, though we don’t actually know what happened, since Simon (Matthew Goode) cuts her off before she finishes.Tony (Rufus Jones) and Sandra (Annabelle Wallis) stroll in with daughter Kitty, who reminds me of the spoiled girl from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and won’t hug her mother because she’s “wearing my education on her feet.”
The dysfunctional clan sits down for dinner, and this is where we learn a little bit about their precarious situation. According to Art, the planet is upset at humans for destroying it all these years, and this is how it gets back at us. Another kid says we’ve taken the world for granted, and Kitty tries to blame it on the Russians. These are some smart kids. It shows you what kind of an education good money can buy. “At least our government has a plan,” Kitty says, to which Art responds, “It’s not a plan. It’s a disaster.” And yes, this movie is beginning to feel a little too resonant.
We see a government commercial that instructs, “Take your exit pill. Avoid suffering, and die with dignity.” The commercial also mentions that children in Africa will bleed to death, while these rich white people will be able to just take a pill, and die in peace. That’s just so capitalism. The world is ending, and this government propaganda still wants to point out how much better off its citizens are than the ones in Africa. Art is really not feeling great about this exit pill thing, especially seeing as homeless people and “illegal immigrants” won’t get one, since, as Simon says, they “don’t legally exist.” Nell (Keira Knightley) insists they’re trying to protect their kids from suffering, because suffering is bad.
It makes you wonder what you would do in a situation like this. Would you just give them the pills? Or if they’re old enough to know what’s happening, are they old enough to make their own decisions about it? I’m a fan of chaotic family movies, like The Family Stone, Sixteen Candles, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, perhaps because they’re relatable. SILENT NIGHT takes that to the next level. Honestly, these people are all kind of terrible? Sandra hits on her friend James right in front of her husband (Rufus Jones), because as it turns out, she kind of always wanted him, and at this point, why not?
It’s even worse when you find out that the reason they never dated, despite having been friends for years, is because Sandra was molested by a teacher, and instead of being enraged at the man who took advantage of her, James was jealous. Men. That’s not to say that lesbian couple Bella (Lucy Punch) and Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) don’t have their own problems. Alex, who’s been sober for years, ends up getting massively champagne drunk, because, well, it’s the end of the world, and also, Bella’s friends are just “so mean.” She’s not wrong.
The script is quick-witted and darkly funny. Bella tells Sandra she doesn’t trust the government, because “they killed Diana.” There’s a great balance between heartbreaking scenes - like when Nell’s family FaceTimes her mother, who abruptly cuts the call off when she sees the storm brewing outside, and rushes to take her exit pill with wine - and deliciously dark comedy.
While Art talks to James about his qualms with taking the pill, since he’s a cancer doctor and should want to help people, the child shares an anecdote of a time his friend Tommy was right and the teacher was wrong. But when James asks if Tommy will be taking the pill, Art just quips, “Probably. His mother hates him.” I am truly in awe of the talent of this kid. Is he the next Jacob Tremblay? That’s also just the beauty of Griffin’s writing. Scroll to the bottom to see a few other SILENT NIGHT quotes I couldn’t stop thinking about.
The music in this movie is also really on point. As everyone's dancing, they play the song “Fame,” with the ironic quote, “I’m gonna live forever.” We hear the titular song of the film while the camera shifts between the smoke and wind outside, and the drunk adults partying.
It's very clear that the adults, aside from Sophie, have accepted their fate, but Art very much has not. It's really interesting, because I feel like at Art's age, I might have been just like him. However, if this happened now, I would probably do exactly what they're doing, drinking champagne with my friends, eating all the foods I'm allergic to, and taking the exit pill. You can read into what the says about me.
As the movie goes on, you can see everyone giving into the bacchanalian festivities - except for Art and Sophie. His parents try to convince him that he is better off dying with them via pill, than alone from the poisonous gasses. I’ll save the dramatic ending for you to experience for yourself, but just know it has a gut punch of an ending.
SILENT NIGHT is hard to watch at times, and definitely made me cry, but it is just so well-done. It brings up a lot of interesting and complicated discussions about child-rearing, trusting your government, and even abortion. The timeliness makes it even more chillingly resonant, seeing as the crew had to rush to finish filming before the pandemic lockdown.
SILENT NIGHT is a perfect balance of tragedy, drama, and humor - and so well-acted. Part of me wants to rewatch it, but at the same time, I also don’t feel like crying again.
James: “Pain is intolerable. Pain is why some people choose to die.”
Art: “People don’t generally know they’ve made a mistake until they’ve made it. And then we’ll all be dead, and there will be no one to apologize to.”
James: “Life isn’t fair.”
Art: “That’s what people say when they don’t want to find a solution.”
Sophie: “I’ve just noticed posh people like to keep secrets.”
Art: “The batteries are going to last longer than us.”
Sophie calls Art kind, and he says, “I'm not kind. I just don't want to give up. And I don't think anyone else should, either.”
SILENT NIGHT is streaming now on AMC+.