This is the true story of Jennifer (Lawrance) and June (Wright) Gibbons. They were identical twins from a small town in Wales. The Gibbons’ were the only black family around, which immediately had them standing out, and not in a good way.
Their family, who got the same way from the community, made the best of it, but the twins could not. The way children the girls were treated in their white school, very badly, by the way, wasn’t considered or looked into when their behavior became rather odd. Everyone just passed it off as them choosing to stop talking for no reason suddenly.
This is where we find ourselves at the very beginning of the film. As the movie moves along, the four actors blow you away, making it easy to believe they are the Gibbons girls. They gave astonishing performances. And the work director Agnieszka Smoczyńska put into this, to educate and entertain, is tremendous. It will be appreciated at, quite possibly, every award show this season.
As twins often do, Jennifer and June spoke their own language. The fact that they do is called Cryptophasia, which means the development by twins (identical or fraternal) of a language that only they can understand. When speaking together, we, the audience, hear them in a gentle whisper or a dialect they share. You’ll be able to understand them, but only just. It sounds as if their tongues hit the back of their top teeth.
Perhaps being teased for so long about their speech impediment started them down the path of “I. You. Me. We. Us.”
The rest of society had to go away in their minds… or mind. Were they two, or did they see themselves as just one? You’ll ask yourself this after watching, trust me.
Their teachers and therapists called their inability to speak “selective,” believing they were bad influences on each other. The girls didn’t look people in the eye, only communicated through writing, unless they were alone, of course. Their mother would listen to them speak to each other when she stood outside their bedroom door, but if she asked them to, they wouldn’t talk to her directly, no matter how desperately she pleaded for them to.
Oddly, Jennifer and June even seemed to have coordinated their movements, as if one would know what the other desired her to do. After a look between them, one would do something mentally thought by the other, though no speech had passed between them. How? Was this instinctive, or was there some code they were using? There are several examples of this used in the film. The two were very close, so code or even instinct isn’t a crazy notion.
The girls were quite imaginative. They would draw, write poetry and write books. The way this is portrayed in the film is exceptionally thought-provoking, as is most of the film.
Stop motion animation is used to tell the story in an enhanced way, visually showing us what the girls were going through on the inside and what they were thinking. A stuffed parrot was a handy device and, in their art, operated as something that conveyed their feelings of being caged up, stared at, and unable to get free. An odd-looking white doll is used to express their treatment by others.
When speaking of their existence, they were anyone but themselves. The parrot was the most used toy to get a point across. It finally became threadbare, burned, sliced open and tossed aside. When Jennifer and June weren’t happy, the parrot got the brunt of things, all to show how they felt they were seen.
They eventually thought their writing could be better if they had romance in their life. Hence, both girls focused their hearts on an American boy named Wayne (Bandeira). Fiercely competitive, it gets ugly when they both fall in love with him and want the other out of the picture. Their fights suggest they may want the other out of the picture for good.
Jennifer and June hated each other and loved one another. They wanted to be together, and they wanted to be apart. Obviously, they couldn’t have both at once.
After some sex, drugs and a little arson to get even more of the life they’ve missed thus far, they get caught and are institutionalized. This becomes a test of their ability to be together or be apart. That situation and the dangers that came with it got even worse. After ten years of the hospital trying to help the now thirty-year-old women, they’re transferred to a minimum-security facility and… I can’t tell you any more than that.
“The Silent Twins” is incredible. It’ll ultimately draw you in. The acting and the story are gripping. It’s absorbing and the characters the movie was based on are riveting. Theirs is a fascinating tale you’ll want to know more about once you see the film. I wanted to lower the score some because the actors were often tricky to understand, but that’s part of telling us who the twins were. I couldn’t use their adopting a speech impediment in their acting against them or against the movie itself. If you’re worried about not being able to understand them, watch where you can turn on the subtitles.
The Silent Twins
Directed by: Agnieszka Smoczynska
Written by: Andrea Seigel (screenplay), Marjorie Wallace (book)
Starring: Letitia Wright, Tamara Lawrance, Jack Bandeira, Jodhi May
Rated: R (Language|Drug Use|Disturbing Material|Nudity|Some Sexual Content)
Run Time: 1h 53m
Distributor: Focus Features