There has been a wide range of films about crime or criminals. Most are straightforward types of stories such as gangster films or films where the characters are just going down the wrong path. Or calculated criminals like bank robbers and or car thieves. The Silent Twins, based on a true story depicted in the book by Marjorie Wallace, is not any of these. It’s a story about two mentally disturbed girls, originally from Barbados, who go down a path of criminal behavior because of drugs and bad influence.
The story takes place in the late 70s and early 80s. There are two girls who live in a small town in Wales. June and Jennifer Gibbons (Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrence) are sad about their surroundings and as a way to close off from the world, they choose to be silent. They come to be known as “the silent twins” That is to all except each other. As a way to enjoy each other’s company, they create fantasy worlds of dolls and puppets. Combined all of this causes them to have issues in school. Which in turn causes them to be expelled and end up learning on their own.
Their isolation helps to make them curious about the world. They become writers and they start to show interest in boys and external ways of enjoyment such as drugs and alcohol. All of this leads to a life of crime in the form of stealing, breaking & entering, and vandalism. The authorities have no other recourse but to lock them up in a famous psychiatric hospital known as Broadmoor. Their mental state causes them to decide to separate. This is their only recourse for survival. Twins eventually need separation to learn to survive on their own away from their sibling.
Twins have a connection to one another having been born together in the womb. They tend to have similar interests and enjoy each other’s company. I myself am one so I can speak on this topic better than most. My maternal instincts toward my brother were very close. We did everything together and we loved the same things. We lived together for years before we finally separated to go our ways. These two girls were tied to one another until they had no choice but to leave each other. It wasn’t easy for me and my brother and it isn’t easy for these girls in the film either.
The filmmaker Agnieszka Somcznska makes a few decisions on how she decided to tell this story. It’s not a straightforward biopic. She breaks away from the main story to use the puppets and stop-motion animation as a tool to help the viewer figure out what is going on in these girls’ heads. Like a lot of young girls in their teens or early twenties, they are thinking about boys and going away to some fantasy land where they can be princesses instead of miserable in the cold and damp of Wales. As well as the isolation they feel. This is a good use of this filmmaking style. It also breaks up the monotony of the rest of the story.
The marketing campaign by Focus Features would lead you to believe this is somewhat of a horror story, but it’s not. The Silent Twins is more about the psychological connectivity of these two girls. They were so in tune with one another that they did things they shouldn’t have. Their maternal instincts toward one another were so ingrained that until they were separated one couldn’t survive without the other. The script by Andrea Siegal from Wallace’s book examined the trauma of these two girls and how the minds of identical twins like them operate. It’s a fascinating subject matter. I can say from my experience it wasn’t easy being on my own without my brother, but we learned to eventually go our own ways and make lives for ourselves away from the comfort of what we knew and loved. This film is an interesting examination of these kinds of people.
Dan Skip Allen