‘The Silent Twins’ Confounds and Fascinates

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How silent ARE they?! (CREDIT: Courtesy of Lukasz Bak/Focus Features)

Starring: Letitia Wright, Tamara Lawrance, Leah Mondesir-Simmonds, Eva-Arianna Baxter, Nadine Marshall, Treva Etienne, Michael Smiley, Jack Bandeira, Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn

Director: Agnieszka Smoczyńska

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: R for Teens Misbehaving

Release Date: September 16, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: Identical twins June and Jennifer Gibbons don’t exactly like communicating with anyone besides each other. They keep extensive diaries and invent a sort of sing-song patter with an oddly clipped accent, but again, that’s just for themselves. It’s almost invasive that we get to see a movie version of them doing this, even if it’s not documentary footage. Twins are notorious for having their own unique twin language, which is apparently so common that there’s a name (and Wikipedia page) for it. It’s called “cryptophasia,” and the Gibbonses have the most extreme version I’ve ever witnessed. They talk and walk and dance in unison. It’s practically telepathic. But it also cuts them off from the rest of their family and the rest of society, as they stumble into teenage rebelliousness and eventually end up in a mental hospital.

What Made an Impression?: Much like its real-life subjects, The Silent Twins seems to be creating its own vernacular, one that I found kind of impenetrable. Ambitious movies are wont to attempt such a thing, and it’s always a gamble whether or not the audience can pick up on it. I found myself in a blur, but I certainly appreciated the effort. The ladies playing the twins certainly give it their all, with Letitia Wright as June and Tamara Lawrance as Jennifer. And as the younger versions, Leah Mondesir-Simmonds and Eva-Arianna Baxter are just as revelatory.

But for as unique as much of this story and much of the filmmaking are, the mischief that June and Jennifer get up to is rather garden variety. Now, if the events that we see are what really happened (or close to it), I’m not asking for any fabulation. But the way it all plays out struck me as a little ho-hum. Maybe there’s just a natural oomph of resistance when you try to fit a typical narrative engine onto such an atypical subject. There’s plenty to dig in and analyze here, though; it’s just not always electric.

The Silent Twins is Recommended If You Like: Secret twin languages, The Dark Side of Coming-of-Age

Grade: 3 out of 5 Secret Languages

‘Censor’ Invites Us Into a Trippy, Bloody Good Time

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Censor (CREDIT: Maria Lax/Magnet Releasing)

Starring: Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley

Director: Prano Bailey-Bond

Running Time: 84 Minutes

Rating: Unrated, But It’s Pretty Gory as Befitting the Subject Matter

Release Date: June 11, 2021 (Theaters)/June 18, 2021 (On Demand)

I imagine the inspiration for Censor came about while writer-director Prano Bailey-Bond was watching David Cronenberg’s body horror classic Videodrome and thought, “We need another movie like that.” And I can’t be mad at how lovingly Censor wears that influence on its sleeve, as I 100% agree with that sentiment. Let me shout it so that everyone in the back can hear: there aren’t enough movies emulating Videodrome! There should be more! Especially when one of them ensconces itself within the moral panic of Britain’s 1980s “video nasties” era. This is a time and a place when some bloody, bloody fantastical violence is being passed around by the kids – could it somehow burst out of those videocassettes?

If there’s someone at risk of that happening to, it doesn’t appear to be film censor Enid, at least not when we first meet her. She operates with a seen-it-all attitude towards the potentially objectionable content she encounters in her job, and if you’re the type of moviegoer inclined to watch something like this, you probably feel much the same way. But she has a distinct psychological vulnerability: the long-ago, not-fully-explained disappearance of her sister. Feelings of guilt and protectiveness bubble back up and become overwhelming when she’s declared dead in absentia and Enid encounters a video in her work that seems to mirror this past trauma. What follows is a mystery-unraveling journey reminiscent of 8MM, but much more personal and surreal. Throw in some supernatural flair very much a la The Ring, and we’ve got ourselves our very own full-flavored 21st Century Video Nasty.

And now I’ll conclude with a goofy thing I like to occasionally do when reviewing a film, in which I ask if it has convinced me to want to do the thing that it is about. So then, does Censor make me want to be a film censor? In a way, I’m already inclined towards such a pursuit. It’s not that different from being a critic, after all. Both involve thorough analysis and serve the purpose of guiding audiences towards a well-informed decision. So yeah, if the MPAA or some other film board needs some extra help, I wouldn’t mind being called to duty, especially if it means I get to have a trippy sidequest like Enid’s (although I’d prefer it if it weren’t so deadly).

Censor is Recommended If You Like: Videodrome, 8MM, Trading gory cult classics with your friends

Grade: 3 out of 5 Video Nasties