ㅏpocalyptic tragi-satire might be cinema’s new growth area. Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up is almost upon us and now here is this arrestingly strange and forthright black comic nightmare from cinematograher turned director Camille Griffin, produced by Trudie Styler and featuring Griffin’s son Roman Griffin Davis (the child star of Jojo Rabbit). A cross-section of upper-middle-class professionals who have known each other since school descend on a handsome country house for a lavish Christmas house party, hosted by Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode), who have three boys, including Art (Griffin Davis). Instantly, these people start speaking in Richard Curtis/Emma Freud romcom dialogue to each other. There is Nell’s sister Sandra (Annabelle Wallis) who is married to dopey-dependable Tony (Rufus Jones). Hospital consultant James (Sope Dirisu) has come with his partner Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp), and sarky Bella (Lucy Punch) with her partner Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste).
Generally in a comedy drama of this kind, there will be an elephant-in-the-living-room trauma or sadness that everyone is collectively in denial about, but which gets resolved with laughter and tears before the closing credits. Not this movie: because the world is about to end. No weddings, one big funeral. A giant toxic cloud caused by environmental abuse is forecast to sweep in on Boxing Day killing everyone, so this is their last hurrah. The entire group have their government-issued suicide pills, which it turns out have been withheld from homeless people and illegal immigrants. You might find yourself thinking about the Covid vaccines hoarded away from the developing world.
Silent Night is not exactly a satire of well-off and well-connected people as such – everyone is supposed to be basically pretty adorable. But there is something undoubtedly startling and bizarre about seeing the end of the world generically grafted on to this jolly Britcom mode. Maybe for our torpid governing classes that is exactly what the end will look like: not a bang, not a whimper, but a despairing smirk of self-deprecation before necking the poison tablet.