Review: ‘Silent Night ‘ (2021), starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Roman Griffin Davis, Annabelle Wallis and Lily-Rose Depp

December 24, 2021

by Carla Hay

Lily-Rose Depp, Sopé Dìrísù, Rufus Jones, Davida McKenzie, Annabelle Wallis, Roman Griffin Davis, Keira Knightley, Hardy Griffin Davis, Matthew Goode, Gilby Griffin Davis, Lucy Punch and Kirby Howell-Baptiste in “Silent Night” (Photo by Robert Viglasky/AMC+)

“Silent Night” (2021)

Directed by Camille Griffin

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in England, the dark comedy film “Silent Night” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with two black people) representing the working-class and upper-middle-class.

Culture Clash: Before an impending apocalypse, a family gathers for one last Christmas dinner, where secrets are revealed, and there are emotionally painful debates over suicide.

Culture Audience: “Silent Night” will appeal primarily to people that are interested in watching very dark satires of how people deal with certain death.

Clockwise from bottom left: Lucy Punch, Hardy Griffin Davis, Roman Griffin Davis, Gilby Griffin Davis, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Annabelle Wallis, Davida McKenzie, Rufus Jones, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Sopé Dìrísù in “Silent Night” (Photo by Robert Viglasky/AMC+)

“Silent Night” takes heartwarming movie clichés about Christmas holiday gatherings, and burns those stereotypes to a crisp. It’s not a horror film but a very dark comedy about how an apocalypse brings out the best and worst in people. Some viewers who have no problem watching apocalypse movies might have a problem with how the impending doom in “Silent Night” involves children and is set during the Christmas holiday season. Therefore, this movie is not for people who are very religious, or sensitive people who are extremely offended by debates about committing suicide versus waiting to be killed by an apocalypse.

“Silent Night” is the feature-film debut of writer/director Camille Smith, who took a bold risk to make her first feature film focused on such an uncomfortable topic and making it a satire. It’s a dialogue-heavy film about an upper-middle-class British family gathered for one last Christmas dinner on the eve of an apocalypse. There are secrets and lies that are revealed during this dinner, but this is not a typical apocalyptic movie where all the characters want to stay alive.

What makes “Silent Night” so different from other apocalyptic movies is that people in the movie have the option to take an Exit pill, which will kill them almost immediately, in order to avoid suffering during the apocalypse. It’s this suicide angle that’s the most likely to make “Silent Night” offensive or controversial to some viewers. However, the movie does point out the uncomfortable truth that tragedies such as suicide don’t stop just because of an impending apocalypse.

The movie is a disquieting roller coaster ride about how people’s minds can be messed with when dealing with the destructive end of the world as they know it. Some people want to plan ahead and be as prepared as possible. Some people want to deny it all and act like everything’s fine until the last possible moment. Some people don’t want to stick around for the apolocaypse to happen and want to take control of how and when they will die. Other people want to hold out hope that maybe they and their loved ones can survive the apocalypse.

This varied range of emotions and attitudes are all on display with the family gathered for this meal. Although there are many characters in the story, they have distinct personalities, so it’s easy to tell them apart. These family members are:

  • Nell (played by Keira Knightley), a high-strung socialite who is determined to keep the annual holiday tradition of having a fabulous Christmas dinner at her home.
  • Simon (played by Matthew Goode), Nell’s patient and loving husband, who is more willing to discuss the impending apocalypse than Nell is.
  • Art (played by Roman Griffin Davis), Nell and Simon’s outspoken and foul-mouthed youngest child, who’s about 12 or 13 years old.
  • Hardy (played by Hardy Griffin Davis) and Thomas (played by Gilby Griffin Davis), the identical twin sons of Nell and Simon. The twins, who are about 14 or 15 years old, are almost as bratty as their younger brother Art.
  • Sandra (played by Annabelle Wallis), Nell’s materialistic and judgmental older sister.
  • Tony (played by Rufus Jones), Sandra’s laid-back and often-henpecked husband.
  • Kitty (played by Davida McKenzie), Sandra and Tony’s prim and proper daughter, who’s about 12 or 13 years old.
  • Bella (played by Lucy Punch), Nell and Sandra’s irresponsible queer older sister, who is a single mother, but her child is not with her at this dinner.
  • Alex (played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Bella’s girlfriend, who works as a bodyguard and is more sensible than Bella.
  • James (as Sopé Dìrísù), Alex’s younger brother, who is an oncologist in his early 30s.
  • Sophie (played by Lily-Rose Deep), James’ American girlfriend, who’s about 10 years younger than James is.

At first, the gathering seems festive and full of cheer, as everyone avoids talking about the apocalypse in depth. However, not everyone wants to be at this party. An early scene in the movie shows that while Sophie and James were driving to Nell and Simon’s house, Sophie expresses her reluctance to go to the party this year. There’s definitely disagreeable tension between this couple. Eventually, the bickering and discord begin among other people at this gathering.

Sandra and Bella have a little argument because someone named Lizzie wasn’t invited to this dinner party. Sandra was supposed to invite Lizzie, whom Bella doesn’t like. But Sandra thought that Bella would invite Lizzie. The two sisters can’t agree on whose responsibility it was to give the invitation, so they reach a stalemate.

Meanwhile, brothers Art, Hardy and Thomas are little terrors when teasing Kitty, who is a serious and often-mopey child. Kitty is offended by the brothers’ cursing. She snootily says that coarse language is for “common” people. Kitty is also upset because she wants sticky toffee pudding, which Kitty has every year at this dinner, but Nell forget to buy the pudding this year, and Nell tries to hide this fact.

Later, when the family members open their gifts around the Christmas tree, Kitty is unhappy with her gift (a talking doll), and refuses to give a “thank you” hug to her mother Sandra. Why? As Kitty pouts to Sandra, “You’re wearing my education on your feet.” In other words, Sandra spent the money for Kitty’s future school tuition on high-priced shoes. After all, what good is that money going to be in the future if the world is going to end and there’s very little chance of survival?

Before dinner, the three sisters gather in the kitchen to exchange gossip and catty remarks. They wonder out loud if Sophie is anorexic because she’s very thin. Nell and Bella mention that before they became mothers, they used to do cocaine to keep their weight down. All three sisters think that Sophie is too young for James.

Meanwhile, the men gather in the greenhouse on the property, where James reveals a big secret that he doesn’t want Nell, Sandra, Bella, Alex and the children to know about. The secret involves a major decision that has to be made before the apocalypse happens. The problem is that certain people involved in the decision don’t agree on what should be done.

By the first 15 minutes of “Silent Night,” it becomes obvious that this family is not the warm and fuzzy type, with or without an apocalypse. Nell has her big annual Christmas dinner mainly so she can show off to other members of the family. But this year, it’s different. There’s enough food and drinks to go around, but the meal isn’t as lavish as it was in the past. For example, instead of having a fancy potato dish that would be normal for this dinner, Nell says that the entire group can only have one potato per person.

It’s the first sign of rationing that implies a food shortage has been going on for quite some time. Over this scaled-back dinner, Sophie gets confrontational with Kitty about the Queen of England’s recent televised Christmas speech. Sophie is offended because she thinks that the queen looked like she was giving the speech inside of a bunker. Sophie thinks that the British royal family secretly has access to apocalypse-proof safe houses. Kitty says that it doesn’t matter because the queen is “old” and “the Russians want us all dead.”

And then, people at this fateful dinner start talking about the apocalypse, which is described as an “environmental disaster.” It’s implied that scientists predicted the exact day that the apocalypse would arrive, much like hurricanes can be predicted with precision. On television, Art sees a commercial for the Exit pill. His curiosity about the pill leads him to ask questions that the adults find difficult to answer.

The movie makes a little bit of a sociopolitical commentary when it soon becomes clear that the Exit pill is only for people who can afford it. Simon tells Art that some people in society, such as homeless people and illegal immigrants, haven’t been given the Exit pill. Simon explains to Art that the Exit pill has been withheld from certain groups of people because the government doesn’t think they legally exist.

“Silent Night” doesn’t get bogged down in political preaching. Instead, the big ethical debate in the movie is whether or not parents have the right to decide if their underage children should take the Exit pill or not. Art has an opinion that is very different from his parents. Other people at this family gathering have conflicting opinions if they or other people should take the Exit pill.

Because “Silent Night” takes place entirely on the estate property of Nell and Simon, the movie is meant to be somewhat claustrophobic in its contained setting. (Trudie Styler, who is one of the movie’s producers, has a cameo as a family friend named Nicole, who says her last goodbyes via a video conference call.) The number of people in the cast is relatively small, but the movie is realistic in showing that most people in an impending disaster would want to stick close to home with family members.

“Silent Night” has its share of flaws (there’s some contrived soap opera melodrama), and the movie will disappoint viewers who are expecting more action or more likable characters. However, all of the cast members give capable performances, and writer/director Griffin maintains an effective level of suspense over what’s going to happen in this story. Ultimately, “Silent Night” succeeds in its intention to pose disturbing questions about how an apocalypse should be handled when power and privilege play more of a role than some people would like to admit.

RLJE Films released “Silent Night” in select U.S. cinemas, and AMC+ premiered the movie on December 3, 2021.

2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards: ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ is the top nominee

January 26, 2021

by Carla Hay

With seven nods, including Best Feature, the abortion drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is the top nominee for the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards. For the first time, the Spirit Awards show will not be held the day before the Academy Awards. Instead, the Spirit Awards ceremony will take place on April 22, with a live telecast at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on IFC and AMC+. The 2021 Academy Awards will take place on April 25. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both ceremonies are expected to be mostly virtual. Also for the first time, there are television categories at the Spirit Awards. The Netflix limited drama series “Unorthodox” and the Apple TV+ docudrama series “Little America” lead the way in these TV categories, with three nominations each.

Eligible movies were those released in 2020 that had a production budget of no more than $22.5 million. Therefore, several critically acclaimed 2020 movies with budgets higher than $22.5 million were not eligible, including the Netflix films “Da 5 Bloods,””Mank” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

As for what defines an “independent” TV show for the Spirit Awards, Film Independent president John Welsh told Variety in a September 2020 interview that it would depend on a TV show’s “aesthetic, original provocative subject matter, unique voice and diversity. The types of work that we celebrate on the film side, and TV side, they’re going to look very similar. … Somehow these singular voices are finding their way into television and making a mark on the culture. We are remiss if we don’t celebrate that.”

Here is the complete list of nominees for the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards:

BEST FEATURE (Award given to the producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.)

First Cow

Producers: Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Producers: Todd Black, Denzel Washington, Dany Wolf

Minari

Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh

 Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Producers: Sara Murphy, Adele Romanski

 Nomadland

Producers: Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Chloé Zhao

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to director and producer)

I Carry You With Me

Director/Producer: Heidi Ewing

Producers: Edher Campos, Mynette Louie, Gabriela Maire

The Forty-Year-Old Version

Director/Producer: Radha Blank

Producers: Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Jordan Fudge, Rishi Rajani, Jennifer Semler, Lena Waithe

Miss Juneteenth

Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples

Producers: Toby Halbrooks, Tim Headington, Jeanie Igoe, James M. Johnston, Theresa Steele Page, Neil Creque Williams

Nine Days

Director: Edson Oda

Producers: Jason Michael Berman, Mette-Marie Kongsved, Matthew Linder, Laura Tunstall, Datari Turner

Sound of Metal

Director: Darius Marder

Producers: Bill Benz, Kathy Benz, Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – Given to the best feature made for under $500,000 (Award given to the writer, director and producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.)

The Killing of Two Lovers

Writer/Director/Producer: Robert Machoian

Producers: Scott Christopherson, Clayne Crawford

La Leyenda Negra

Writer/Director: Patricia Vidal Delgado

Producers: Alicia Herder, Marcel Perez

Lingua Franca

Writer/Director/Producer: Isabel Sandoval

Producers: Darlene Catly Malimas, Jhett Tolentino, Carlo Velayo

Residue

Writer/Director: Merawi Gerima

Saint Frances

Director/Producer: Alex Thompson

Writer: Kelly O’Sullivan

Producers: James Choi, Pierce Cravens, Ian Keiser, Eddie Linker, Raphael Nash, Roger Welp

BEST DIRECTOR

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Kelly Reichardt, First Cow

Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

BEST SCREENPLAY

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Mike Makowsky, Bad Education

Alice Wu, The Half of It

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

Kitty Green, The Assistant

Noah Hutton, Lapsis

Channing Godfrey Peoples, Miss Juneteenth

Andy Siara, Palm Springs

James Sweeney, Straight Up

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Jay Keitel, She Dies Tomorrow

Shabier Kirchner, Bull

Michael Latham, The Assistant

Hélène Louvart, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Joshua James Richards, Nomadland

BEST EDITING

Andy Canny, The Invisible Man

Scott Cummings, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Merawi Gerima, Residue

Enat Sidi, I Carry You With Me

Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Nicole Beharie, Miss Juneteenth

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Julia Garner, The Assistant

Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

BEST MALE LEAD

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Adarsh Gourav, The White Tiger

Rob Morgan, Bull

Steven Yeun, Minari

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Alexis Chikaeze, Miss Juneteenth

Yeri Han, Minari

Valerie Mahaffey, French Exit

Talia Ryder, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Colman Domingo, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Orion Lee, First Cow

Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Benedict Wong, Nine Days

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD – Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast

One Night in Miami…

Director: Regina King

Casting Directors: Kimberly R. Hardin

Ensemble Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.

BEST DOCUMENTARY(Award given to the director and producer)

Collective

Director/Producer: Alexander Nanau

Producers: Hanka Kastelicová, Bernard Michaux, Bianca Oana

Crip Camp

Directors/Producers: Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham

Producer: Sara Bolder

Dick Johnson is Dead

Director/Producer: Kirsten Johnson

Producers: Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness

The Mole Agent

Director: Maite Alberdi

Producer: Marcela Santibáñez

Time

Director/Producer: Garrett Bradley

Producers: Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)

Bacurau

Brazil

Directors: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho

The Disciple

India

Director: Chaitanya Tamhane

Night of the Kings

Ivory Coast

Director: Philippe Lacôte

Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time

Hungary

Director: Lili Horvát

Quo Vadis, Aida?

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Director: Jasmila Žbanić

PRODUCERS AWARD – The Producers Award, now in its 24th year, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality independent films.

Kara Durrett

Lucas Joaquin

Gerry Kim

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD – The Someone to Watch Award, now in its 27th year,  recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition.

David Midell

Director of The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain

Ekwa Msangi

Director of Farewell Amor

Annie Silverstein

Director of Bull

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The Truer Than Fiction Award, now in its 26th year, is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition.

Cecilia Aldarondo

Director of Landfall

Elegance Bratton

Director of Pier Kids

Elizabeth Lo

Director of Stray

TV CATEGORIES

BEST NEW NON-SCRIPTED OR DOCUMENTARY SERIES (Award given to the Creator, Executive Producer, Co-Executive Producer)

Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children

Executive Producers: Jeff Dupre, Joshua Bennett, Sam Pollard, Maro Chermayeff, John Legend, Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius

City So Real

Produced by: Zak Piper, Steve James

Executive Producers: Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Alex Kotlowitz, Gordon Quinn, Betsy Steinberg, Jolene Pinder

Immigration Nation

Executive Producers: Christina Clusiau, Shaul Schwarz, Dan Cogan, Jenny Raskin, Brandon Hill, Christian Thompson

Co-Executive Producers: Andrey Alistratov, Jay Arthur Sterrenberg, Lauren Haber

Love Fraud

Executive Producers: Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing, Amy Goodman Kass, Vinnie Malhotra, Jihan Robinson, Michael Bloom, Maria Zuckerman

We’re Here

Creators/Executive Producers: Stephen Warren, Johnnie Ingram

Executive Producers: Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Peter LoGreco

Co-Executive Producers: Erin Haglund, Sabrina Mar

BEST NEW SCRIPTED SERIES (Award given to the Creator, Executive Producer, Co-Executive Producer)

I May Destroy You

Creator/Executive Producer: Michaela Coel

Executive Producers: Phil Clarke, Roberto Troni

Little America

Executive Producers: Lee Eisenberg, Joshuah Bearman, Joshua Davis, Arthur Spector, Alan Yang, Siân Heder, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon

Small Axe

Executive Producers: Tracey Scoffield, David Tanner, Steve McQueen

A Teacher

Creator/Executive Producer: Hanna Fidell

Executive Producers: Michael Costigan, Kate Mara, Louise Shore, Jason Bateman, Danny Brocklehurst

Co-Executive Producer: Daniel Pipski

Unorthodox

Creator/Executive Producer: Anna Winger

Creator: Alexa Karolinski

Executive Producer: Henning Kamm

BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES

Elle Fanning, The Great

Shira Haas, Unorthodox

Abby McEnany, Work in Progress

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Never Have I Ever

Jordan Kristine Seamón, We Are Who We Are

BEST MALE PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES

Conphidance, Little America

Adam Ali, Little America

Nicco Annan, P-Valley

Amit Rahav, Unorthodox

Harold Torres, Zero, Zero, Zero

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES

I May Destroy You

Ensemble Cast: Michaela Coel, Paapa Essiedu, Wruche Opia, Stephen Wight

AMC Networks partners with Adopt-A-Pet.com for FurFest adoption promotion

October 20, 2020

The following is a press release from AMC Networks:

AMC Networks today announced it has teamed up with Adopt-a-Pet.com, North America’s largest non-profit pet adoption website, for AMC’s annual horror marathon FearFest, to raise awareness for pet adoption with ‘FurFest.’ All month long, AMC, AMC+, and Shudder are encouraging viewers to support Adopt-a-Pet.com’s mission to end the overpopulation of companion animals in shelters and help pets find loving forever homes through custom, PET-tacular spots airing across linear, digital, and social channels.

The custom spots, featuring a few four-legged horror fans, encourage viewers to find their perfect watch buddies through adoptions and especially raise awareness for black cat and black dog adoptions this spooky season. Halloween may be the season for magical black cats, but in reality, they are most often left behind in shelters because of the color of their fur. Many animal welfare organizations call this “black cat syndrome,” with the phenomenon happening with black dogs as well. Through the collaboration, audiences are encouraged and inspired to help fight “black cat syndrome” by adopting these furry friends or by donating to Adopt-a-Pet.com. See the custom spot: 

“We all know that spooky season is best enjoyed with a buddy by your side, which is why we’re thrilled to join forces with Adopt-a-Pet.com to help viewers find their perfect four-legged watch companions,” said Linda Schupack, President of Marketing, AMC Networks Entertainment Group. “The movies on AMC’s FearFest and Shudder are already scary enough. How great to cuddle up with a lovely black cat or black dog for Halloween and beyond.”

“Teaming up with AMC Networks is an exciting and unique way to spread the word about pet adoption,” said Dana Puglisi, Chief Marketing Officer of Adopt-a-Pet.com. “We appreciate AMC and Shudder’s efforts to help get more pets into loving homes. And we love all the extra snuggles those newly adopted pets will receive while their people binge through the FearFest thrills!”

Now in its 24th consecutive year, AMC’s annual horror marathon FearFest brings the frights with an entire month of genre programming from iconic franchises like Halloween and Insidious, and the return of award-winning docuseries Eli Roth’s History of HorrorShudder, dubbed “the ultimate in streaming horror” by Newsweek, offers the best selection of original and classic horror, thriller and supernatural films and series, uncut and commercial free. Both are also now available as part of the new AMC+, a premium streaming bundle featuring only the good stuff, which also includes IFC Midnight’s best genre cinema from independent, foreign and documentary films. In addition to the largest slate of classic horror movies such as Friday the 13th and Halloween, AMC+ also includes all series within The Walking Dead Universe, as well as AMC’s Eli Roth’s History of Horror, and new Shudder programming, such as Joe Bob’s Halloween Hideaway Special and A Creepshow Animated Special, and much more.

See the full FearFest lineup.


Find the Best in Horror at Shudder.

About AMC Networks

Known for its groundbreaking and celebrated original content, AMC Networks is the company behind the award-winning brands AMC, BBC AMERICA, IFC, SundanceTV, WE tv, and IFC Films. Its diverse line-up of popular and critically-acclaimed series and independent films include Killing EveBetter Call Saul and The Walking Dead, which has been the #1 show on ad-supported cable television for ten consecutive years, as well as PortlandiaBrockmireLove After Lockup, and the films BoyhoodDeath of Stalin, and many more. Its original series Mad Men and Breaking Bad are widely recognized as being among the most influential and acclaimed shows in the history of TV. The Company also operates AMC Studios, its production business; AMC Networks International, its international programming business; the subscription streaming services Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, and UMC; and Levity Entertainment Group, the Company’s production services and comedy venues business. For more information, visit http://www.amcnetworks.com.

About Shudder

AMC Networks’ Shudder is a premium streaming video service, super-serving members with the best selection in genre entertainment, covering horror, thrillers and the supernatural. Shudder’s expanding library of film, TV series, and originals is available on most streaming devices in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. For a 7-day, risk-free trial, visit ​www.shudder.com​.

About Adopt-a-Pet.com

Adopt-a-Pet.com is North America’s largest non-profit pet adoption website, helping over 19,000 animal shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups, and pet adoption agencies advertise their purebred and mixed breed pets for free to millions of adopters each month. Sponsored by companies including Purina, Chewy, and Elanco Animal Health LLC, Adopt-a-Pet.com helps homeless dogs, cats, and even rabbits and other animals go from alone to adopted.