Agnieszka Smoczyńska rose to international fame with The Lure, one of the most inventive musicals made in the past decade. I was very excited to see what she was going to tackle next. No matter what it was, I would be the first to go to the theater and see it. And here we are with The Silent Twins (she did make another movie called Fugue in 2018, but it was unreleased in my area), an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Marjorie Wallace. Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrence play the titular Silent Twins, June and Jennifer Gibbons, who only talk to each other and stay silent from everyone else.
The two of them get sent to a mental institution after they both vandalize a building and do not talk during the trial. The rest of the movie is quite hard to follow, with a narrative always trying to stay ahead of its viewers but never leaving them to appreciate, or at least understand, everything that is going on.
Where Did The Silent Twins Go Wrong?
The biggest problem with Smoczyńska’s direction and Andrea Seigel’s script is that it has no idea what to say about the Gibbons twins. What does it want to talk about? Because the movie swerves from one time period to the next, frequently fragmenting different aspects of their lives at once or going back and forth from the past to the “present” and vice-versa, there seems to be no focus on what the audience should want to grasp from their story.
It’s pretty clear that they’re inseparable, but the movie never intends to explore why that is, or at least give some insight as to why they’re staying silent from the rest of the world other than predictable platitudes that I’m sure have happened in real life, but aren’t necessarily compelling for a major motion picture to showcase, because it feels clichéd.
The end result is a rather frustrating watch, with lots of cyclical sequences that amount to the same thing ad nauseam: the twins share their love of art and creativity while they’re together, they get high, bicker, make up, and then do the same thing until the movie abruptly ends in the most ridiculous and emotionally manipulative way. There doesn’t seem to be a throughline, or at least a message, that ties the film together in a poignant way. We’re subjected to a bunch of random scenes that have no emotional resonance, and very little stylistic flourishes.
Smoczyńska does try to keep the movie as engaging as possible with scenes filled with neon lights, and unnaturally paced musical sequences (the latter made The Lure a masterpiece), but they have no place being in a drama that deals with such difficult subjects. Smoczyńska also distracts audiences with stop motion-driven sequences, but they also feel completely out of touch with what the movie actually wants to tell. But since it has difficulty figuring out what to tell, it’s best to distract audience members with flashy sequences that don’t belong in a film like this.
Even with Wright and Lawrence giving impassioned performances (Wright has always been a skillful actor, even if her anti-vaccine views are highly problematic, though I’ll admit I did chuckle when her younger self in this movie did not want to take a vaccine), The Silent Twins still ends up being inert and incomplete.
Smoczyńska knows how to make a great drama, and she certainly has the help of a terrific cinematographer (Jakub Kijowski) to do so, but doesn’t seem to want to draw compelling characters and paint the Gibbons sisters in a thoughtful light, instead of doing a “fourre-tout” of a bunch of stylistic ideas at once, and trying to see what sticks. If there’s one thing the movie does send to audiences, it’s a blueprint on how not to make a gripping character drama.
The Silent Twins is now playing in theatres everywhere.
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