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The Silent Twins Movie Review

The Silent Twins (2022) movie poster
The Silent Twins

Theatrical Release: September 16, 2022 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska / Writers: Andrea Seigel (screenplay); Marjorie Wallace (book The Silent Twins)

Cast: Letitia Wright (June Gibbons), Tamara Lawrence (Jennifer Gibbons), LeahMondesir-Simmonds (Young June Gibbons), Eva-Arianna Baxter (Young Jennifer Gibbons), Nadine Marshall (Gloria), Treva Etienne (Aubrey), Michael Smiley (Tim Thomas), Jodhi May (Marjorie Wallace), Jack Banderia (Wayne Kennedy), Kinga Pris (Sister Nowak), Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn (Greta)

 

Having reviewed movies for a living since the age of 18, there isn't much in cinema that I find unusual. There are so many niches and trends in the industry that are plain for all to see. A film succeeds and others like it crop up. A film flounders and its franchise or format gets retired.

The Silent Twins is most certainly unusual.
That explains why it opened this weekend in just 279 theaters and brought them an average of only $130 each day.

Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska (The Lure, Fugue) makes her English language debut on this film that defies expectations at every opportunity. It opens with Leah Mondesir-Simmonds and Eva-Arianna Baxter, the actresses playing the eponymous silent twins June and Jennifer Gibbons, reading off the names of cast members as they are credited. They're not silent and their characters seem to be hosting a radio show, playing a T. Rex song from their bedroom in 1970s Wales.

In reality, the young twins don't speak to their parents or their teachers or even each other if anyone else is around. Their silent noncomformity is troubling to those in their lives and school administrators decide to separate them and see if their condition improves.

In "The Silent Twins", mostly mute sisters June (Letitia Wright) and Jennifer (Tamara Lawrence) enjoy the purple light of the Welsh underground.

We jump ahead to the early 1980s, with the girls apparently in their late teenage years (now played by Black Panther's Letitia Wright and British stage veteran Tamara Lawrence). To the outside world, the girls remain troubled and on top of that, they are now drawn to boys and mischief, which for them go hand in hand. They both set their sights on Wayne (Jack Bandeira), an American jock defined by his letterman jacket whom they stalk from a distance. He introduces them to sex and drugs. Soon, they are committing arson and getting sentenced indefinitely to a mental health facility.

Before that, June and Jennifer have begun to write fiction, channeling their experiences into stories they are hoping to publish while collecting government assistance.

The Silent Twins is strange and compelling, an original tale that makes extensive use of stop-motion animation to tell the seemingly aimless and random story of a couple struggling to have a child. It often makes for a frustrating experience, watching these twins put themselves in this predicament with minimal guidance and communication beyond one another. Part psychological thriller, part coming-of-age drama, the movie never really settles into one of the industry's established niches, which brings us back to it being hard to market and hard to find an audience, although my advance screening was filled with the arthouse sect, a very small number of which greeted the movie's moments of offbeat comedy with raucuous guffaws.

As young children, Silent Twins Jennifer and June Gibbons are played by Leah Mondsir-Simmonds and Eva-Arianna Baxter.

The only way to wrap your head around the picture is to know that it is based on a true story. Smoczynska and American screenwriter Andrea Seigel (Laggies) have not taken many liberties with the facts, so to speak more about the real Gibbons sisters' lives is to spoil the movie. Adapting the 1986 book of the same name by British investigative journalist Marjorie Wallace (who's presented as a fringe character here),
The Silent Twins has compelling subject matter and its depiction of mental health issues and treatment thereof should be the stuff or broad human interest.

But it remains a tough film to get and stay onboard with, as it alternates light, playful bits with dark ones, never fully securing our sympathy for the insular protagonists, even when putting them through systemic cracks.

I appreciate this film getting made with nearly no regard to commercial prospects and convention and plenty will find much to admire within, particularly in its striking and varied visual style. Still, it's not an easy viewing and will likely discomfort anyone who thinks they know what they're getting, because they're almost certainly not getting that.

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Reviewed September 18, 2022.



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