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Silver Haze

Loosely based on Vicky Knight's own tragic life, British drama depicts a strong young woman struggling to hold together her highly fractured existence - in cinemas on Friday, March 29th

Franky (Vicky Knight) is in her early 20s, living with her absent mother and inseparable sister Leah (Charlotte Knight). She works as a nurse at the local hospital, in a sleepy working-class town somewhere in South East England. Her body is covered in horrific burns from a childhood accident 15 years earlier. Franky is still seeking answers as to what exactly happened on the tragic day, and why her father abandoned her since. Despite her physical and psychological scars, Franky is a strong and sensible young woman. She is capable of injecting a sense of joy and control even at the most difficult moments.

She bonds with Florence (Esmé Creed-Miles), a former patient with impulsive and suicidal tendencies. They seem to complete each other, Franky with her sense and sensibility, and Florence with her wild instincts. Despite our protagonist claiming that she is heterosexual, the connection inevitably morphs into full-blown romance. Franky moves into Florence’s house in Southend-on-Sea, where she lives with her kind and tolerant grandmother Angela (Angela Bruce) and her autistic brother Jack (Archie Bridgen). Angela is a lonely black woman in search of love at old age. It is never clear why Franky gives up a broken home in favour of another one (Florence’s relationship with her family is turbulent at best), but she does feel comfortable in the new environment, and develops an affection for her new in-laws. The coastal town provides some sort of emotional healing, with its extensive funfairs and pier.

Silver Haze succeeds at providing a snapshot into the life of working-class Britain. The settings are very realistic, with a little dreamy youth texture being added for extra bite (also firmly moving the film away from social realism territory). Knight’s performance also deserves praise, as does the frankness with which the Dutch director Polak and her countrywoman cinematographer Tibor Dingelstad treat her body disfigurement. In fact, the film is loosely based on Knight’s own personal life.

Franky, Florence, Angela and Jack (Franky and Florence all outcasts, and this presumably helps to forge a sense of complicity. The problem is that there is very little chemistry between the characters. There are too many sudden, profound bondings and subplots in a relatively short period of time. Some of the editing feels poor paced and abrupt. The ambitious script feels overworked and contrived, and so the action lacks spontaneity. Strangely, Polak signs the script entirely on her own, not even Knight (on whose life the film is allegedly based) is credited. It may have been through countless script labs and hands, and was designed to tick all of the BFI diversity standards. It works well on a social and also on an industry level, but much less so on a dramatic one. A pervasive and at times irritating indie emo music score does little to engage audiences. Still, worth a viewing.

Silver Haze is in cinemas on Friday, March 29th. It premiered in 2023 at the Panorama section of the 73rd Berlinale, where it won the prestigious Teddy Jury Award.

By Victor Fraga - 22-03-2024

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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