Writer/ director Camille Griffin’s Silent Night takes us to a very stiff upper lip British dinner party hosted by Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode). Among their children are Art, played by Griffin’s own son Roman Griffin Davis (JoJo Rabbit), while the guests include interloping American girlfriend Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp), narcissistic friend Sandra (Annabelle Wallis) and college crush James (Sope Dirisu).
But here’s the kicker: tonight is their last night on Earth. Armed with government-issue suicide pills, the party awaits their final dawn, when deadly noxious gasses will flood the ruined environment.
Speaking via Zoom at Deadline’s TIFF studio, Griffin explained her inspiration thus:
“I was in the bath and my kids had just watched War Horse, and they said, ‘Mum what are we going to do if there’s a war?’ And I said, ‘Unfortunately if there’s a war it’s going to be nuclear. But it’s OK because I’ve saved up my Tramadol.’ And they said, ‘What’s that?’ Obviously, these are the kind of conversations we have at home. I was joking.”
She continued, “I believe if you can’t go out and save the world yourself then at least you need to bring the truth into the household. And really the film is a metaphorical exploration of how one might cope when a catastrophe comes knocking at your door and how do you protect your children and your loved ones. And how we should take our privilege and care about the rest of our society.”
Knightley was, she said, seven months pregnant when she first read the script. She found it hilariously funny. “My husband was like, ‘What are you laughing at? What’s so funny?’ And I said, ‘Oh they all die!’” Then, six weeks after giving birth she read it again. “I was in that hormonal placed of no sleep and breast milk and I go and read she script again and I find it absolutely hysterical. And I meet Cami and we have this conversation… We talked a lot about maternal catastrophe, where you give birth to life but you also give birth to fear.”
However, later on, Knightley had a somewhat different reaction. “We came to do it [make the film] and then my kid is five months old and sleeping through the night, and I’m not really that hormonal anymore and I’m like, ‘What is this?! This is the most f***ed up thing I have ever read in my life!’ But these are great reactions.”
For Depp, her ‘outsider’ character “shed light on the problems within how the rest of the group are dealing with the situation. I am fascinated by stories that bring us closer to our true natures and bring us face to face with how we, in a very primal way, react to these things that put our whole existence on the line. And I really liked the space my character occupied within that.”
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