Tibor Dingestad’s cinematography in this movie is used to accentuate colors and specific moments. Take the opening of “Silver Haze,” where the movie intercuts between Franky (Vicky Knight) making a joint and having sex with her current boyfriend. The intercutting between these moments, bathed in the red glow (of a red tent) or in the flames as the joint is lit, suggests a woman who feels lost but is trying to cope.
The feeling of being lost is expanded as Vicky’s family life is focused. We learn of a traumatic event: a fire in a pub her parents owned. Vicky’s continuing efforts to be the carer for her mother, and a need to assign blame to Jane Woodbridge, the woman their father had left to start a family. We see a broken woman trying to heal, and perhaps her profession as a nurse allows her to be more empathetic to healing others’ pain. During one of these days, she meets and falls in love with one of her patients, Florence, a person similar to her in many aspects.
The linear format of the storytelling ensures that the character growth of Franky and the slow closure of being lost and finding closure become palpable and easily identifiable, even if the storytelling feels a bit rote. While the sensitivity surrounding the relationship between Franky and Florence is appreciated, it is never fully connected because the chemistry between the two of them is never believable enough.
As a result, scenes like Franky’s brother and mother insulting her after discovering the two of them kissing on their front lawn or a group of bigoted bus passengers mocking and then hurting them in retaliation feel both necessary and overly dramatic. The heightening of tonality felt at odds with the most realistic vibe.
The movie starts to form itself into a deeper exploration of bonds and familial ties once we are introduced to Florence’s foster family. The exploration and relationship between Florence’s foster mother, Alice (the wonderful Angela Bruce), her foster brother Jack (Archie Brigden), and Franky become the heart of the show, far more than the relationship between Franky and Florence. In a fit of revenge, Franky tried to throw a molotov cocktail into her father’s house, only to see her half-brother pick up the burning bottle. It was one of the most terrifying images I have seen this year.
How director Sacha Polak frames that moment in Franky’s psyche is visually striking and equally horrifying, and how that moment widens the chasm between Florence and Franky’s relationship felt like efficient storytelling, even if Florence’s spiraling out felt far too sudden. But maybe that was the point—maybe her rushing in and out of situations like a gust of wind or a storm made Franky realize her inability to fix everything. Still, it felt like the scenes were missing, even when Franky and Florence got back together for a minute, only to break up again.
The film works best when Franky and her relationships with her sister, as well as her relationships with Alice and Jack, are explored and highlighted. The second half justifies the movie’s insistence on keeping the point of view solely from Franky’s perspective because it is about her learning to move on and finding closure, even if the movie at times feels like it is focusing on the wrong aspects.
I also wish that the scene where she finally reconciles with her father and their family was shown as well because “Silver Haze” never really shows us happy moments in the conventional aspects. Even when Franky is at her mother’s house, mentally and emotionally far better than she had left, it still isn’t a hunky-dory resolution.
As an exploration of ties that are formed due to the company we find ourselves in or due to extenuating circumstances, Silver Haze is a poignant one, if not as effective. It also manages to make the East London locality a distinct one of its own, with its jokes, its foibles, and its difficulties. There is truth in the storytelling, however flawed it might be.
Silver Haze was screened at the 2023 Berlinale Film Festival
Silver Haze (2023) Movie Links: IMDb
Silver Haze (2023) Movie Cast: Vicky Knight, Esmee Creed-Miles, Charlotte Knight