Silent Night review: a seasonal film, rather than a Christmas one

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From director Will Thorne comes a seasonal movie that’s not the cheeriest of festive fare, but has plenty going for it.

Christmas. For most of us, it usually means family, friends, good food and falling asleep in front of the TV.

Not so for Mark, recently released from prison and trying to make an honest living to support his daughter and estranged partner. Despite Mark’s determination to turn over a new leaf, he’s drawn back into the criminal world after his family is threatened by his old boss, Caddy: one more job, just for Christmas.

Keeping Mark company is Alan, his ex-cellmate and bad influence, who keeps badgering him to pack it all in and escape to Spain. Alan is everything that Mark is trying not to be: a ne’er do well, more interested in dishonest than honest work, and acting impulsively rather than thinking about the future, often with messy consequences.

The final job that Caddy blackmails Mark into doing is, apparently, simple: kill three men, collect their signet rings, earn enough money to see that his daughter is well provided for.

Accepting Alan’s offer to do the ‘dirty work’ of the job turns out to be a mistake, however, and it quickly goes awry. Mark is also expected to find out who’s been undermining Caddy, whose fears seem to be more rooted in paranoia than concrete evidence, but exactly who the guilty party is keeps changing until it seems like Mark’s investigation will never end.

Cue several twists and turns, with one particular reveal imbuing the film with another level, and embellishing the rest of the story with poignancy and more depth than you might expect from a crime thriller.

The film stumbles occasionally. The music doesn’t always match up to the action on-screen, and especially in moments of high tension, less would have been more. Some of the twists are confused, and need just a touch more explanation or time.

However, Silent Night is beautifully shot, with careful consideration of camera angles and focus to suggest Mark’s train of thought, and the pressures surrounding him. The film is almost drained of colour, creating an inhospitable atmosphere almost everywhere Mark goes. Life for Mark is regularly cold and hard, with a notable exception being his visits to old friends Pete and Seamus, and brief moments with his daughter, Daisy.

The dialogue too contributes to a further understanding of Mark’s character and situation, especially in his interactions with other people. His conversation with Julia, his ex, is stilted and full of unanswered questions: a stark contrast with the easy, jokey banter he has with Alan.

It adds up to an impressive feature, this. Perhaps not the most upbeat of festive fare, but a film worth seeking out this December that notwithstanding.

Silent Night is much more than its ‘one last job’ premise. It’s a portrait of a man who, despite wanting to do the right thing, ultimately has to return to his criminal past in order to do so: a reverse redemption story. While not what we might think of as a traditional Christmas story – although that definition is somewhat loose given Die Hard – the film’s themes are what many of us are thinking about this time of year: redemption, keeping loved ones safe above all else, and working towards a better future.


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