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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Camille Griffin
prd Matthew Vaughn, Trudie Styler, Celine Rattray
with Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Roman Griffin Davis, Annabelle Wallis, Sope Dirisu, Lily-Rose Depp, Lucy Punch, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Rufus Jones, Davida McKenzie, Gilby Griffin Davis, Hardy Griffin Davis, Trudie Styler
release UK/US 3.Dec.21
21/UK Marv 1h32
TORONTO FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Opening with a lively group of people gathering for a momentous Christmas dinner, this gimmicky comedy bristles with real-life dynamics that swirl between people who care about each other. Combining the heightened emotions of the holidays with the bleakly urgent menace of climate change, writer-director Camille Griffin takes this story in some audacious directions, revealing the results of our failure to deal with important things, including our emotions.
On Christmas Eve, Nell and Simon (Knightley and Goode) are hosting their friends for dinner. This includes posh friends Sandra and Tony (Wallis and Jones), pushy Bella (Punch) and her intimidated girlfriend Alex (Howell-Baptiste), and warmly caring doctor James (Dirisu) and his young girlfriend Sophie (Depp). After-dinner charades spark laughs, and opening presents is a distraction, but everyone has one thing on the mind: the world has become toxic, and they're going to die tonight. So each is thinking about whether to take the government-supplied suicide pill, which will allow them to go painlessly.
There are ripples of old and new tensions swirling through each conversation, even as everyone smiles through it. But the dialog gets more serious as friends begin to reveal secrets and confess regrets. The next generation watches alertly, echoing (and arguably improving upon) their parents' foul language. Much of this is funny, but often in a darkly painful way. And as this festive evening continues, there are flickering glimpses of the devastation as extreme weather sweeps the globe.
Much of this is seen through the eyes of Nell and Simon's teen son Art (Griffin Davis), who is obsessed with what is happening both in the house and outside. Each adult actor has a distinct reaction, played with a skilful blend of humour and drama to create vividly recognisable characters. Knightley and Goode are particularly gifted at layering crippling fear under a life-of-the-party persona. Dirisu is another standout, as a man in a complicated position. Because we begin to care about these people, the final events carry a strong kick.
Even though it's arch, the premise offers pointed social and political commentary, including a throwaway comment that the homeless and illegal immigrants aren't given the pill, leaving them to suffer horrible deaths. When a child asks, the best a grown-up can reply is, "Life isn't fair." There's also the heart-stopping issue of parents killing children to save them from pain. So it's remarkable that Griffin avoids sentimentality or moralising, which increases our involvement in an unthinkable situation that has frightening resonance.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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