The Silent Twins is the textbook definition of a film that sounds great on paper, but flounders in the execution. All style and no substance, this adaptation of the novel by Marjorie Wallace is head-scratchingly misguided in its approach. The one and only thing I felt worked on a narrative level was the bond between sisters June (Letitia Wright, Black Panther, Death on the Nile) and Jennifer (Tamara Lawrence), whilst the incredible stop motion animated asides are clear visual highlights.
The film begins with an extremely unique opening credits as young versions of June (Leah Mondersir-Simmonds) and Jennifer (Eve-Arianna Baxter) act as radio hosts taking us along their life’s journey. Following these two girls—both with thick lisps and introverted personality types—one may initially have difficulty in telling them apart. However, the casting genius is undeniable. The children selected bear an uncanny resemblance to their older counterparts, and the transition from youth to womanhood is seamlessly executed. We watch as June and Jennifer measure out the exact same amount of peas and milk to consume. The plot is lacking, but the bond between these women is fully-realized.
I absolutely loved the sort of makeshift stop-motion style of animation that is explored when the “silent twins” are telling stories to one another. The fantastical world feels every bit as handmade as one would hope; every second spent here is effective and downright brilliant. It actually made me think that I probably would have enjoyed The Silent Twins significantly more if this element had been more paramount to the plot and the greater themes of the film. We do not get nearly enough, particularly in the latter half of The Silent Twins leading into the third act.
Were these twins crazy? Why have they decided to pursue a life of crime? Two cute dirtbag white boys flirt with them and they smoke weed together. One of the boys tries to get intimate with Jennifer and June, seeming to take turns with them. Before robbery and pyromaniacal tendencies emerge, I had a hard time penetrating the psyche of these women regardless. It is difficult to tell if the script by Andrea Seigel wants us to relate to them or not, or perhaps sympathize? When they go out of their way to wreak havoc, how can one muster up the sympathy?
Mostly, The Silent Twins is one of the most frustrating movies I have seen so far this year because of how much I loved the animation segments and the setup of the film. I understand that it is based on a true story, but there is not enough metaphorical meat on the bones to elicit much more than a shrug. Director Agnieszka Smoczynska drips style in every frame yet lacks the prowess of an excellent screenplay to make The Silent Twins worthy of recommending.
The Silent Twins opens up a storybook retelling when it debuts exclusively in theaters on Friday, September 16th.