There are some films based on true stories that you have to research after watching. You need more details because you are screaming, “it cannot end like this.” The Silent Twins is one such film. As soon as it ended, I did not even wait to go home; I was on my phone googling June and Jennifer Gibbons. The Silent Twins is tragic, mysterious, and even magical, as many describe twin bonds. Directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska with the screenplay by Andrea Seigel, based on the book by Marjorie Wallace, the film gets a lot write, given the sources used. The Silent Twins feels uncomfortable as you sympathize with the twins and family but also seethe at the racism barely touched on in the film, which played a pivotal role in these events. 

The Silent Twins Opening Makes You Love The Twins

The Silent Twins sill of Leah Mondesir Simmons as June and Eva-Arianna Baxter as Jennifer sitting beside each other at a desk.
(L to R) Leah Mondesir Simmons and Eva-Arianna Baxter in director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s THE SILENT TWINS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Jakub Kijowski/Focus Features

The opening of the story is misleading about the sadness to come. It is an adorable intro as the girls playing the young June and Jennifer Gibbons (Leah Mondesir-Simmonds and Eva-Ariana Baxter, respectively) introduce the film and cast, including themselves. The film reminds me of Heavenly Creatures as their reality is different from what is present. June and Jennifer are two young Black girls growing up in the UK. Though there is no date, based on music, clothing, and what plays on television, it is the 70s and 80s for most of the film. 

Then there is a vibrant scene of the girls pretending to be DJs, enjoying music, and having a grand time. The carefree happiness made me smile. But the background alters when their mother walks into the room. Then there they are, sitting beside each other, heads bowed, with no sound. Twin relationships always feel paranormal due to information we hear about; sensing each other, living parallel lives, and communicating without words. But these are also two little Black girls growing up in a racist society. 

There Are Few Choices or Chances For Little Black Girls

The Silent Twins still of Leah Mondesir Simmons as June and Eva-Arianna Baxter as Jennifer sitting on the stairs next to each other.
(L to R) Leah Mondesir Simmons and Eva-Arianna Baxter in director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s THE SILENT TWINS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Jakub Kijowski/Focus Features

As adults, June (Letitia Wright) and Jennifer (Tamara Lawrance) still keep to themselves. To help with their desire to write, they start to seek out experiences. Their lives, after all, have been in their shared bedroom. Fantasy and imagination can take you a long way in writing, but it is hard when you lack the emotions of the experience or something similar.

The Silent Twins cover their childhood, fall into crime, and indefinite admittance at Broadmoore. The film balances these three points in their life, so the transition does not feel ill-timed. Because of the mix of imaginary with reality, sometimes it is challenging to discern which realm the scene is in at any given moment. However, rewatches will bring clarity. 

Racism Curtails Care

The Silent Twins still of June Gibbons (Letitia Wright) and Jennifer Gibbons (Tamara Lawrance) staring at a wall
(L to R) Letitia Wright stars as June Gibbons and Tamara Lawrance stars as Jennifer Gibbons in director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s THE SILENT TWINS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Lukasz Bak/Focus Features

Creative minds are usually more sensitive and being Black girls, then women, heightens feelings of pain, trauma, and being misunderstood. Based on the book by Marjorie Wallace, a white woman, plus the writings, poems, and material the Gibbon twins wrote themselves, The Silent Twins lacks a deeper exploration of racism. Through a white woman, those racial tensions receive scant attention. When facing such violent hostility at a young age, kids will respond in kind or retreat into themselves; June and Jennifer Gibbons chose the latter.

Even Marjorie’s character in The Silent Twins sees them as victims but does not put a name to their forced institutionalization: racism. It needs a name because many will deem them unfortunate or blame them for not speaking when racial bullying played a role in their upbringing and behavior. Especially given how few resources there were to seek help during that time in a sea of white doctors. How do you discuss racial trauma when the person you are talking to is the same as those who harmed you?

The Silent Twin Songs Tug At The Heart, As Does The Cast
The Silent Twins still of Tamara Lawrance stars as Jennifer Gibbons and Letitia Wright stars as June Gibbons leaning their heads toward each other.
(L to R) Tamara Lawrance stars as Jennifer Gibbons and Letitia Wright stars as June Gibbons in director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s THE SILENT TWINS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Lukasz Bak/Focus Features

Musically, the songs are on the nose, fitting the scenes too well. You know, someone plotting a murder and song lyrics “I’m going to kill you” playing in the background is frustrating and often annoying. I prefer songs to approach what is beneath the surface of a scene or mood. But, since the lyrics are also from June and Jennifer Gibbons, the moments are rawer and more heartbreaking. 

Tamara Lawrance and Letitia Wright hold your attention in each scene. Before them, the actresses playing the younger twins, Leah Mondesir-Simmonds and Eva-Ariana Baxter, are equally riveting. The rest of the performances are well-done, but without the leads at the center, The Silent Twins would fall apart. Their love for each other and conflict that turns violent at times are realistic portrayals of what happens when two people have only one and no one else. The other party assumes every role. 

The ending is sad yet hopeful as June goes out into the world. But the pain is still there because this is a true story, and the mistreatment of Black children is ongoing. There is no hope of addressing an issue that people are still scared to name. Despite the lack of in-depth racial exploration, The Silent Twins gives a poignant and painful look at Black children cast aside for being different and that uphill battle to reclaim themselves. 

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