In Review

Film review: Silent Night

A rural Christmas is not as it seems 

In the early scenes of this “bizarre comedy” from debut director Camille Griffin, we seem to be firmly in “Richard Curtis territory”, said Charlotte O’Sullivan in the London Evening Standard. Keira Knightley stars as Nell, a mother of three who is about to spend Christmas in a “holly bedecked mansion” in the English countryside “with her attractive, sweary and dysfunctional friends”, as well as her “once-doting” husband Simon (Matthew Goode). But as the film progresses, it becomes clear that Knightley and co. are eating, drinking and being merry because they’re facing the apocalypse: a cloud of poisonous gas is sweeping across the world; and to inhale it is to die an agonising death. The only protection from pain? “A government-sponsored suicide pill.” Audiences who went in expecting “cinematic eggnogg” may demand their money back. 

“A few good ideas pulsate gently at the heart of the film,” said Brian Viner in the Daily Mail, “but it unfolds like an undergraduate revue sketch stretched well beyond its natural life.” As the cloud approaches, the social politics of the middle-class house party become “almost unbearably shallow and contrived”, and characters are revealed to be “thinner than cheap festive wrapping paper”. They are all “slightly nauseating”, said Clarisse Loughrey in The Independent, but the performances are quite compelling. Knightley in particular turns in fine work here: her comic talent is underused, but she gleams with “manic perkiness”. Unfortunately, though, as the film slips from satire to “absolute nihilism” it starts to “collapse in on itself” – and becomes simply “grim”.

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