THE SILENT TWINS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska serves up an edgy, unnerving and provocative drama with her latest movie The Silent Twins. Not since The Shining have female twins gotten so under my skin. This fictionalized true-life story focuses on June and Jennifer Gibbons, two Black sisters who grew up in Wales and stuck together. Both had a creative streak but they also had major mental illness issues, including incidents of self-harm and psychological woes.

We first meet the sisters, they are toddlers who are averse to speaking to with their other family members. But when they reach their adolescent stage, that is when they are truly tempted by fate as they flirt with boys and commit crimes such as arson. That’s when we learn that June and Jennifer’s troubles truly flair up.

As for June, Letitia Wright – who is part of the Marvel universe for her role as Shuri in 2018’s Black Panther – might draw some fans to this rather raw and abrasive tale that takes place mostly in the 1980s. As for Jennifer, she is played by the lesser-known Tamara Lawrance. Both ladies, however, leave a large mark on the screen, even if there is little comfort and joy to be had. After a spree of vandalism inspired by an American boy they both idolize, the girls, now teens, end up Broadmoor Hospital, an infamous psychiatric hospital, where they face the choice to separate and survive or die together because of their emotionally travails. At times, both girls seem to be knocking on death’s door, given their problems.

Perhaps because their lifestyles are so jumbled, Smoczynska adds some visual and aural flourishes including ‘80s songs by such bands as The Clash and T-Rex. The filmmaker does end up injecting stop-motion animation figures that Jennifer has created, giving the story a weird fairy tale vibe as winds down and the twins meet their ultimate fates.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.