sat 13/07/2024

Silver Haze review - daughters of Albion dealing with damage | reviews, news & interviews

Silver Haze review - daughters of Albion dealing with damage

Silver Haze review - daughters of Albion dealing with damage

Vicky Knight and Esmé Creed-Miles shine in a drama inspired by Knight's tragic past

Southend love idyll: Esmé Creed-Miles (left) and Vicky Knight

In a Dagenham hospital, Silver Haze’s compassionate nurse Franky, played by Vicky Knight, meets Florence (Esmé Creed-Miles), who’s been admitted as a patient for having attempted suicide. After Franky dumps her boyfriend, the two women begin a tempestuous affair – or is that a tautology?                   

Since this intimate low-budget romantic drama adopts Franky’s subjectivity, it’s apt that her impressions of falling in love glow with the effects of the eponymous marijuana strain she uses to help her cope with the childhood burns that disfigured her. 

Recalling the Spanish idyll in Lynne Ramsey’s Morvern Callar (1995), which starred Creed-Miles’s mother Samantha Morton, scenes set in an East End park and at Southend’s garish Adventure Island theme park and glutinous marshland are rendered paradisiacal by Tibor Dingelstad’s naturally lit cinematography. 

An affecting immersion in dreamy social realism that’s also close in spirit to Paweł Pawlikowski's My Summer of Love (2004), as well as Andrea Arnold’s FishTank (2009), Sacha Polak’s film depicts the struggle of angry 23-year-old Franky to come to terms with her father’s abandonment. She also wants to know who started the pub fire that nearly killed her – and did kill a relative – 15 years previously. Franky’s double quest is complicated by her suspicion that the woman who supplanted her mother in her father’s affections might have been the arsonist. 

It must have taken immense courage for Vicky Knight to star in this fictional version of her life. Knight suffered severe burns in the 2003 fire in her grandfather’s Stoke Newington pub that killed two of her cousins and the plumber who rescued her. Dutch director Polak previously cast Knight as the young mother in Dirty God (2019) whose scars are the result of an acid attack by her ex-boyfriend; domestic violence surfaces in Silver Haze, too. (Pictured below: Knight and Creed-Miles)

Franky and Florence head to the coast because Franky’s homophobic brother kicks her out of the council house where they live with their mother and sister Leah (played by Knight’s sister Charlotte Knight).

He is doing her a favour. Leah’s birthday party, humorously observed and vividly realised with to-ing-and fro-ing handheld camerawork, offers only brief respite from the atmosphere cast by the rancorous alcoholic mother's unmanageable mental health problems.

In Southend, Franky find a supportive surrogate family with Florence, her autistic brother Jack (Archie Brigden), and the siblings’ adoptive grandmother Alice (Angela Bruce), a warm, wise woman philosophical about her declining health. Franky remains with them after Florence again falls prey to her demons, abuses Alice, and flies the coop. A scene in which Florence provocatively acts out in a nightclub pushes Franky to the edge. She finds solace in her re-strengthened bond with Leah, who has unconvincingly embraced Islam after being deserted by her violent boyfriend.

Silver Haze is exemplary in showing how first love is wondrous until it curdles and how young adults learn – or don’t, at their peril – to negotiate that disillusionment and make tough decisions; Franky, for one, learns that other kinds of love, that don’t gratify the senses, are what she needs most.

Knight’s unsentimental acting is a thing of beauty in a film of memorable perfomances that captures the tang, bite, and scrappiness of southern English working-class life without patronising or caricaturing it. Creed-Miles makes middle-class, artily inclined Florence a brittle human pipe bomb full of broken glass.

Less successful is the way Polak, who developed the script with Knight and encouraged improvisation, structured the narrative, which quickly loses sight of Franky’s search for a resolution to the mystery of the fire and a rapprochement with her dad. Otherwise, Silver Haze is exemplary – and it beckons a sequel that finds out if Florence can, hopefully, avoid self-destruction.

Knight’s unsentimental acting is a thing of beauty in a film of memorable perfomances

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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