The Silent Twins is based on the strange true-crime case of June and Jennifer Gibbons, two twins of Carribean descent who lived in the United Kingdom, mostly in Wales, and were often subject to racism because they were the only black people at their school. For reasons that never make sense and are never explored here, they hardly talked to anyone other than each other and even then developing their own language. They didn’t even talk much to other family members.
June and Jennifer were identical twins in real life but here they’re fraternal twins. According to those who went to school with them, they often walked in a tandem synchronize pattern and would often spend recess time hitting each other on the shoulder in a constant rhythm back and forth. At lunch, they would often eat in sync. Their behavior puzzled a lot of people and their family.
Yet, despite their outward behavior, they had creative minds and wrote plays and stories. Eventually, June (played by Letita Wright as an adult and Leah Mondesir-Simmonds as a child) would self-publish her own novel The Pepsi-Cola Addict through a vanity press from money they got from unemployed benefits. Jennifer’s work remained unpublished throughout her life and other works by June are unpublished. SPOILER ALERT!! If you don’t know how this story ends, it’s an odd one because Jennifer (played by Tamara-Lawrence as an adult and Eva-Arianna Baxter) as a child would die unexpectedly a month shy of her 30th birthday of an acute mycarditis, which is a sudden inflammation of the heart.
Watching this movie directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska reminds me a little bit of Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson’s haunting true-crime movie about the infamous Parker-Hulmer murder case in Christchurch, New Zealand that starred a young Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynsky. Silent Twins has several scenes of stop-motion animation, which is a reflection of the sisters’ work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the magical beauty that Jackson and his partner, Fran Walsh, brought to Creatures to contradict the horrible crime we know that is coming up. No, here, it just looks creepy and only makes the twins more of a mystery.
I never really cared for either character mainly because so little is shown of them growing up that later when they turn into criminal acts when they’re in their late teens, it doesn’t make much sense. At one point, they’re doing normal teenage stuff like fooling around with an American boy, Wayne Kennedy (Jack Bandeira), and the next thing we know they’re setting stuff on fire and going to jail. It’s hard to buy Wright and Lawrence as teenagers during these scenes. Worse, their accents really become irritating especially Lawrence who plays Jennifer as if Katherine Hepburn attempting a bad Welsh accent with a constant slur.
So, the twins are sent to a mental hospital where Jennifer would spend most of the rest of her life. Here, they continue their silent routine around mostly others but not themselves. In a scene where they’re separated, Jennifer convulses and becomes catatonic. While they do seem to get along at times, at other times, they’re nearly about to kill each other. For a movie that has the word “silent” in the title, they’re constantly talking amongst each other that you never see how they were able to develop the non-verbal communication they did around other people.
There’s never really much of a story here that makes us sympathetic toward them, which was the filmmakers’ intent. Wright is credited as one of the producers. I’ve heard this story on other true-crime series and I feel it was done better. Wright said their purpose was to focus on the creative side of the twins rather than the stereotypical weirdness. The movie just says they were weird because they were twins and racism of their Welsh neighborhood made them introverts.
Even their premonition that one of them would have to die for the other to carry on a “normal” life is more or less dismissed for a strangely uplifting eneding where we see June engaged in social activities with other people. June’s life since then was mostly uneventful as she lived in western Wales close to her parents and was no longer monitor for psychiatric activities.
What do you think? Please comment.