Based on the true story of June and Jennifer Gibbons, THE SILENT TWINS opened in theaters yesterday to mixed reviews – with some giving high praise to the Agnieszka Smoczyńska directed and Andrea Seigel penned project.
But others, like myself, feel that even with solid performances from its cast – primarily leads Letitia Wright (June Gibbons) and Tamara Lawrance (Jennifer Gibbons) and their younger counterparts Leah Mondesir-Simmonds and Eva-Arianna Baxter respectively – the film didn’t fully realize what precipitated the silence pact amongst the siblings nor the circumstances, both familial and societal, that contributed.
In short, the film – based on a book of the same name by Marjorie Wallace – tells the story of the Gibbons sisters, who stopped communicating with everyone except each other while creating shared fantasy worlds and stories to escape their reality.
According to Smoczyńska, “June and Jennifer’s tale is also a story of exclusion. The story of the “other,” of the outsider, the one who is not accepted by their society and rejected by the system. The Gibbons family are newcomers, outsiders; a “normal” family with the exception of being the only Black family in the area, not far from one of the whitest and most racist cities in Wales.”
Unfortunately, this statement isn’t as prominent in the storytelling as it is in the press notes and the one facet that I wanted to see better depicted was the extent that race played in the twins’ development.
Although the Welsh twins’and their parents being Caribbean immigrants is mentioned, and you hardly see any other persons of color in their neighborhood, school, mental health or the legal system that they eventually contend, it’s left for the audience to know and have an understanding of the obstacles the sisters faced and how this impacted their behavior.
Which made connecting to these protagonists, and even supporting characters, extremely difficult. For instance, one scene depicted shows the twins as young adults during a Christmas holiday gathering. When their sister visits with her newborn, the twins are withdrawn and silent as they’d been – as far as the audience knows – for much of her and their lives. So, it’s partly confusing that this sister would expect them to share excitement or engage her – even with her new bundle of joy – but in that moment she explodes.
Logically, it’s understandable that this would be difficult and disappointing for anyone wanting to share joy but, with a lack of clearer backstory and focus on family dynamics, the impact of that moment on their sister falls short.
Even though I feel there were a few things to be desired, the film was successful at motivating me to research and read more about the lives of these women and their both fascinating and devastating story. I would highly recommend everyone to do the same if you’re not familiar – whether you decide to see the film or not – and also share your thoughts if you do see the film.
I rate THE SILENT TWINS 2.5 out of 5 on the MMTromter.
Until next thought, Thomasena