One of the strangest, darkest Christmas films ever… Silent Night is impactful, impressive and feels appropriate after the last two years
Notte silenziosa Cert: 15, 1hr 32mins
Santo Stefano Cert: 12UN, 1hr 49mins
Encounter Cert: 15, 1hr 48mins
C’Mon, C’Mon Cert: 15, 1hr 49mins
The ghost of Christmassy Richard Curtis films past unmistakably haunts the latest cinema releases, none more so than Notte silenziosa.
It begins with a bunch of old school friends who might have stumbled out of Four Weddings or Notting Hill assembling for the sort of smart, country-house Christmas Bridget Jones used to enjoy.
And yet from these familiar beginnings – attractive thirty-something couples tumbling out of nice cars amid a riot of festive jumpers, sparkly dresses and much swearing – ensues one of the strangest, darkest Christmas films you’ll ever see.
Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode (sopra) playing the immaculate hosts and Roman Griffin Davis (also above) as their son, this is one of those films that make a real impact
It certainly won’t pep you up for the festive season but, after everything we’ve been through in the past two years, it feels strangely appropriate.
The transition from ‘all is calm, all is bright’ arguments over Scrabble and who slept with whom to something far more sinister is beautifully handled by debutant feature writer-director Camille Griffin.
One minute we’re thinking the slowly emerging underlying sadness reminds us of Peter’s Friends or The Big Chill, the next we’ve gone crashing straight into Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia.
Her sparing use of nonetheless powerful visual effects impresses too.
With Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode playing the immaculate hosts and Roman Griffin Davis (you may remember him from JoJo Rabbit) as their potty-mouthed son, this is one of those films that make a real impact.
Just not the impact most of us are expecting.
There’s more Curtis being amusingly subverted in Santo Stefano, which begins with a reflective male voice-over and will later feature those much abused placards from Love Actually and a declaration of love – sadly not in the hesitant style of Hugh Grant – on London’s South Bank.
I think we can safely say writer-director Aml Ameen is doing it deliberately, affectionately and, si scopre, to good effect.
Melvin (Aml Ameen) returns to his family home this Christmas, but what will go wrong when he introduces his fiancee Lisa (Aja Naomi King, above with Ameen) to everyone?
Ameen himself, who starred in Kidulthood and TV’s I May Destroy You, plays the central character of Melvin, a former British soap star who has carved out a successful career as a writer in Hollywood.
But to promote his latest book he needs to return to London at Christmas, which means not just braving his British-Caribbean family’s legendary Boxing Day party but also introducing his beautiful American fiancee, Lisa (Aja Naomi King), a loro.
Che cosa potrebbe andare storto?
His parents are recently divorced, his mother has a new boyfriend who just happens to be white and Melvin’s ex-girlfriend Georgia (played by Leigh-Anne Pinnock from Little Mix) – the girl everybody thought he would marry – will also be there.
There are one or two comic misfires but overall this is nicely crafted and warm-hearted seasonal fun.
Encounter begins as a fairly standard sci-fi story with the Earth under attack from parasitic alien micro-organisms and Riz Ahmed playing a soldier who’s part of the fight-back and needs to rescue his two young sons when their mother and her new boyfriend become infected.
Directed and co-written by Michael Pearce, who brought us the brilliant Beast in 2017, the film reveals its true intentions relatively early on, although still a few moments after most will have already guessed them.
Da allora in poi, purtroppo, it gets badly bogged down in cliche, melodrama and over-acting.
Director Mike Mills steered Christopher Plummer to an Oscar in the 2010 comedy drama Beginners but a decade on finds him very much in arthouse mode with C’mon, C’mon.
It’s been shot in stylish black-and-white and features the mercurial Joaquin Phoenix as a radio journalist who embarks on a working road trip with his intellectually precocious young nephew, whose mother suddenly has to go and care for her bipolar and partially estranged husband.
What results is intense, repetitive and thoughtful… but probably not what most people are in the mood for at the moment.
Adesso, where’s Richard Curtis when you need him?