The Silent Twins Review

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Is respecting a movie the same thing as recommending a movie? Critics often ask themselves this while watching films that are more admirable than entertaining. With The Silent Twins, the question comes up yet again. This isn’t the easiest movie to review. Part of that’s because its central figures aren’t the easiest to interpret. Based on Marjorie Wallace’s novel, this true story centers on June and Jennifer Gibbons. The twin sisters from Wales developed a way to communicate with each other, but remained closed off from the rest of the world. Director Agnieszka Smoczyńska makes a noble attempt to get inside their heads, although the Silent Twins themselves may be the only ones who understood each other.

In addition to making up their own language, the twins escaped into fiction by writing stories, plays, and poems. The film draws inspiration from their dairies for a series of stop-motion sequences, which is where the story shines the most. Polish stop-motion director Barbara Rupik helms the animated segments, which capture the tortured whimsy of the central characters. The opening credits, in particular, are a wonder to observe. If The Silent Twins had been produced as an animated feature or short subject, it would’ve invited an assortment of creative possibilities. Most of the film remains grounded in live-action, however. This makes sense given the bleak subject matter, but strangely, this true story could’ve benefitted from more escapism.

June and Jennifer are inseparable, although they don’t bring out the best in each other. Aside from shoving everyone else away, the two will sometimes break out into brutal fights, seemingly unprompted. When they aren’t harming one another, they’re causing property damage, which eventually lands them in Broadmoor Hospital. This is where the twins squander the best years of their lives. As young women, they’re portrayed by Letitia Wright of Black Panther and Tamara Lawrance. The two actresses not only share a striking resemblance, but they couldn’t be more in sync in these roles. Even if the audience can’t fully comprehend the twins, you never doubt that Wright and Lawrance are on the same continuous wavelength.

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Marjorie Wallace (Jodhi May) eventually visits the twins, wanting to share their story. While Wallace gains their trust, getting through to the twins is still like trying to walk through a brick wall. This not only applies to the journalists and doctors, but to the audience as well. The film resists letting its audience in at every other turn, trying our patience with long, quiet moments with little happening on the surface. Perhaps that’s the idea, but some scenes are so unpleasant that the film might do too good of a job at alienating the viewer.

It’s hard to say if The Silent Twins succeeds in its endeavor. Was the film intended to help us better understand the Gibbons or dramatize the frustration of those around them? I’m not sure, but Smoczyńska does deliver an uncomfortably tense piece carried by two committed performances. On craftsmanship and acting levels, The Silent Twins is worth seeking out. On a storytelling level, it’s emotionally distant, but maybe it’s supposed to be.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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