Not many films this year are as emotionally draining as The Silent Twins.
Written by Andrew Korpan / September 12, 2022
This new biographical drama directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska is a tough watch and far from a “feel-good” story. While that’s not a death sentence, you need a really compelling story to make up for that. The Silent Twins has an interesting story that begins stumbling in its middle half hour or so. The film puts stars Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance at the forefront, who both deliver on their end, and some of the artistic decisions by Smoczyńska are great, but the film ultimately falls short of its potential.
The Silent Twins is a historical drama revolving around a pair of identical twins, June (played by Leah Mondesir-Simmonds in her younger years and Letitia Wright in her elder years) and Jennifer (played by Eva-Arianna Baxter in her younger years and Tamara Lawrance in her elder years) Gibbons who are two brilliant artists and have been since their younger years. The film opens with the twins doing a radio broadcast at a young age — something they’re better at than most modern podcasters — before being interrupted by their mother (Nadine Marshall).
From the opening scene — filled with radiant lava lamp-like colors — the film does a fantastic job of separating the girls’ imaginations from reality. Smoczyńska makes a choice to differentiate between what the girls are writing about and the actual world by going from vibrant colors to a gloomy blue hue whenever we’re in the real world. Like the real world, blue is such a cold color and far from the warmest color in The Silent Twins.
Smoczyńska also brings some of the twins’ words to the screen by using their mementos — i.e. their stuffed animals — and bringing them to life with Wes Anderson-like stop-motion sequences. Both these moments and the opening scene are bold directions that work because like a dream you don’t want to end, the film will take you back to the cold, hard reality of real life.
And it almost goes without saying, but the cast and the casting are all spot on. Wright has never been better in a role and Lawrence matches her performance in every scene they share. Even the younger actresses, Mondesier-Simmonds and Baxter were both excellent choices to play the younger versions of June and Jennifer. The most underrated casting, however, is Jack Bandeira who plays Wayne Kennedy — a boy that the two girls get quite close with. He’s your stereotypical varsity jacket-wearing jock a la Bryce in 13 Reasons Why who has such an annoying personality but is still charismatic enough to get the attention of women.
The pacing of the middle of the film is where it all falls apart. The twins are taken to Broadmoor Hospital — a psychiatric hospital. It’s such a bleak environment and the film does a good job portraying that. However, the scenes leading up to their incarceration drag on and it’s unfortunate after such an intriguing setup.
While The Silent Twins is successful in many things, the parts and craftsmanship are better than the whole. Smoczyńska paints a beautiful picture — bringing the twins’ imaginations to life — and masterfully frames the film. But this contemplative drama ultimately hits one too many lulls, becoming lethargic despite the career-best performance from Wright and a potentially star-making performance for Lawrance. That said, I guess we should be thankful for a biographical drama coming out in the age of IP galore and the theme of artistic expression is profound. It’s too bad that all of the elements that they had couldn’t come together on-screen.