September 16th, 2022
MOVIE: THE SILENT TWINS
STARRING: LETITIA WRIGHT, TAMARA LAWRANCE, MICHAEL SMILEY
DIRECTED BY: AGNIESZKA SMOCZYŃSKA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
The Silent Twins begins like it could be a backstory told about the twin girls in The Shining. The early tone of director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s film is flat out creepy and uncomfortable. And then it hammers you over the head with that awkward tone in a movie about a pair of sisters that are impossible to care for. It’s a wild story about sisters that don’t start talking till long into their teenage years and even then it’s amongst each other in their own personal form of communication. Typically that might be something to be intrigued with but instead The Silent Twins is not saying enough for audiences to raise their voices about.
It begins with the siblings at a young age of six- June (played by Leah Mondesir-Simmonds) and Jennifer (Eva Arianna Baxter) Gibbons, who we are introduced to inside their heads, with stop-motion animated birds, talking in their muffled voices, which are actually dolls made with socks. When the camera pulls back it’s a dark and gloomy room. Cold and empty outside and an entirely different world inside these two heads. During their childhood their inability to talk puts a bullseye on them for bullying and an inability to progress in school. They are put through special education programs, therapy, and split apart to get them isolated from one anothers influence. This never works and the narrative fast forwards to them as 18-year olds played by Letitia Wright as June and Tamara Lawrance as Jennifer. It’s from here where their love for writing grows but within their imaginations is a mind of a child, unaware of their reckless actions, including setting fire to a building, which lands them in a mental institution.
One thing that audiences should be aware of is that The Silent Twins is directed by Smoczynska, whose previous film The Lure lines up here, which was a movie about mermaid sisters that seeked love or feasting on humans. The screenplay is written by Andrea Seigel, adapted from Marjorie Wallace’s novel and it finds similar themes as The Lure, but without the pure fantasy and rooted in reality. It’s within that realism that makes The Silent Twins impossible to enjoy. If it was a story about having empathy for someone’s mental health problems, I couldn’t get there, as June and Jennifer come off as incredibly selfish individuals and their inability to communicate feels like their own undoing. One thing is for certain is that Smoczynska is an artist, a pure director that has created her own signature style of filmmaking, and for that reason I salute her great commitment to the art form.
The performances as well are good, both Wright and Lawrance fully embody these two women, in mind and spirit. Wright finally has a chance to work beyond being a supporting player and Lawrance had already shown her excellence in the horror film Kindred, but here both are sidelined by what the roles call for, and focus on the directors style. The problem may just be me as a viewer, as the challenge was a bit too much for me, where these characters go from fascinating to evil and then expect our appreciation for them at the end. I couldn’t give it more love than what I’ve already stated. The direction is a thing to behold but the experience was often painful.
What I left with was at least appreciating what The Silent Twins is, which is a display of what an artist can do, working with material that fits her inventive style. It ultimately just wasn’t for me. There’s even a sequence where the two sisters dance in a subway tunnel that started to delight me, a set piece that was unexpected, but even then the narrative grinds to a halt, bringing it back to the reality of who these twins are. I’m excited for what Agnieszka Smoczynska does next but The Silent Twins needed to say more.
THE SILENT TWINS IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS SEPTEMBER 16TH, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady