It’s a subject we’ve all thought about in some fashion or other. If mankind is to reach its final destination collectively, will be go down swinging or will be sit and wait patiently for our hearts to beat one last time? I’ve no doubt poets, scholars, and other pontificators have given this plenty of face time; and while they’ve likely all served up something interesting to think about, it’s probably equally true that none of us knows with absolute certainty what that last gasp will be.
Films focusing on society’s end have presented an equal number of variations as the poets, and, yes, even comedies have gotten into the mix. 1964’s Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb showed up our planet’s descent into the nuclear nightmare by way of some oddball characters acting out their worst impulses at the worst possible moments. 1984’s Night Of The Comet delivered a couple of young lasses who make it to the Earth’s last days only to discover they’d still rather be shopping. 2004’s Shaun Of The Dead capitalized on the hot craze of the 2000’s (zombies) by pairing up its jokes around showing not exactly mankind’s finest making it to that last stand and still managing to get the job done right.
While mixing up the apocalypse with laughs isn’t all that new, 2021’s Silent Night does try to give it a fresh spin by essentially serving up an ensemble of characters more likely to talk one another to death than anything else. It’s a holiday dinner party where the guests are gathered, memories are shared, gifts are exchanged, and – ahem – pills will be taken so that everyone can descend into the big sleep before the Greta Thunberg-imagined end times finally arrives and Mother Earth cleanses itself of the ultimate parasite: man himself.
Pass the salt, please.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“Nell and Simon have invited their closest friends to join their family for Christmas dinner at their idyllic home in the English countryside. As the group comes together, it feels like old times – but behind all of the laughter and merriment, something is not quite right. The world outside is facing impending doom, and no amount of gifts, games or Prosecco can make mankind’s imminent destruction go away. Surviving the holidays just got a lot more complicated.”
I don’t want to make too much of a good laugh, but the truth is there aren’t all that many in here. Writer/director Camille Griffin seems to have crafted this chatty tale as if the high point of English society will be remaining civilized when civilization collapses, and, thus, she structures her devilish reveals around the holiday season … that time of year most of us celebrate as ‘the birth of man.’ So if you find that funny, then you’re in on the joke!
In many ways, Griffin’s feature feels like it wants to be the absolute cinematic antithesis to another English comedy – Love Actually (2003) – which also explored the mindset of different people, traditions, and conflicts during the silly season. Both films make good use of character to sustain, say, the slimmest of unifying threads; but where Love Actually actually achieves more because its characters will presumably be rewarded for growing Silent Night offers little to no prospect for redemption (again, to a degree, but I won’t spoil it). So while the desired results were likely achieved is that really the message we want to leave as a silver screen legacy? That being: live it up while you can because you’ll be dead soon?
Methinks we know that already.
Therein lies my biggest issue with Night: it really brings nothing new to the discussion about our inevitable last minutes. While it may benefit from some interesting diversions, a few good laughs, and a couple of solid players, it’s mired in pathos to the point that even the smallest demonstrations of humanity end up feeling hollow when they’re meant to uplift.
And that’s no way to spend the holidays.
Silent Night (2021) was produced by Maven Screen Media and Marv Films. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the reliable RLJE Films. As for the technical specifications? C’mon, man: this is the 21st century. It all looks and sounds very, very good. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, then all you really have to get excited about here are a few deleted/extended scenes (one was funny and surprisingly cut) and some alternate endings that do give the chosen one a bit of additional context. I wish they had gone in one of these other directions as it wouldn’t have felt so ambiguous. But who am I?
Well … okay, I’m willing to recommend Silent Night for your viewing, but I’m gonna be as blunt about the experience as I can. While occasionally funny and sparingly insightful about the human condition called life, the film is unreservedly dour in its estimation about who we are, how we behave, and what we’ll become in our last moments (to a degree). You may disagree with some of its narrative posturing, but the true upside is that it may just get folks talking about the elephant in the room – mankind’s inevitable demise, I guess – and can that ever be a bad thing?
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at RLJE Films provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Silent Night (2021) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.