The Silent Twins

June and Jennifer Gibbons from a young age famously took a vow of semi-silence, speaking only to one another. The twins—who were ostracized in their Welsh community due to race (their family had emigrated from Barbados, and they were the only Black family in the area)—found refuge in an outré fantasy world, writing stories and plays that came to life via a bevy of handmade figures. The vastness of their combined imaginations is what Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczyńska (The Lure) captures best in this film about their unusual lives, based on the eponymous book by Marjorie Wallace, a journalist who took an interest in the womens’ stories when they were in their 20s. The film, written by Andrea Seigel, charts their childhood, during which psychologists raised concerns about their behavior; their unruly teenage years, when they rebelled in an attempt to add substance to their lives, about which they hoped to write; and finally their 11-year institutionalization after an incident of arson. Black Panther’s Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance portray June and Jennifer, respectively, as teenagers and adults; their performances are incredible, bolstered by the insane sequences translating the folly of the sisters’ profound maladaptive daydreaming wherein bizarre puppets à la the Brothers Quay are animated in a stop-motion fashion to bewitching effect. These parts, as well as several original songs written for the film, derive from the twins’ writing. Smoczyńska’s idiosyncratic vision distinguishes what otherwise might have been an overly literal telling of their story, and of their own stories; her dedication to their craft honors their unique circumstances. R, 113 min.

Wide release in theaters


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