Directed by: Camille Griffin
Premise: Pollution and environmental abuse has unleashed a giant cloud of poison gas that is sweeping the globe and killing everything in its path. The British government has issued suicide pills to its citizens. With the catastrophe hours away, a group of friends gather on Christmas.
What Works: Silent Night sees a group of friends and their children gathering for a holiday celebration as an environmental apocalypse is imminent. What is most interesting about the film is how normal everything feels. Silent Night opens like a typical holiday movie with party preparations intercut with different groups of characters enroute. The friends gather at a rural home and much of the movie depicts them bantering and gossiping as they might under normal circumstances. The anxiety about the end of the world is mostly underplayed; it’s visible underneath the performances but the fear rarely manifests in an overt way. It’s the children who play this best, especially Roman Griffin Davis as Art. The deadly gas cloud annihilating humanity is a result of industrialization and Davis’ character embodies a youthful resentment toward his parents and the older generations for their inaction. It’s in this respect that Silent Night is its most subversive. The filmmakers connect this apocalypse to climate change and these families have gathered to carry out a suicide pact because the parents would rather poison themselves and their children than face the realities and consequences of the world they’ve created.
What Doesn’t: We’ve seen similar end-of-the-world scenarios in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Melancholia, and Last Night and virtually all of those films did this premise better. The tone of Silent Night is sometimes clunky. The filmmakers attempt to create a dark comedy but they only achieve mordant humor in a few moments throughout the movie. Stories about the end of the world usually do so in service of some other idea or emphasize the fleeting nature of existence. Silent Night doesn’t really do that. It does connect this fictional catastrophe to the reality of climate change but the film doesn’t say much about that. Silent Night isn’t much of a Christmas movie either and it squanders the potential of the holiday. Christmas is ostensibly about joy and peace but it is also a consumerist extravaganza and there is a connection to be made between the climate crisis and conspicuous consumption. Silent Night doesn’t make that association nor does it use Christmas in any other meaningful way. This story could be set at any time of the year and make about as much sense.
Bottom Line: Silent Night is audaciously bleak. It doesn’t quite work as a black comedy and its social commentary is thin. But Silent Night is a seething reaction to the climate crisis and society’s indifference to it.
Episode: #884 (December 26, 2021)