A Salvation Army volunteer (Malene Beltoft Olsen) struggling with an alcoholic mother (Vibeke Hastrup) and a homeless refugee (Prince Appiah) dealing with racism and an impoverished family in Ghana come together in Silent Nights, a short film whose title is a play on the somewhat irrelevant time of year in which the film takes place.
The film is a bitter examination of the underbelly with a sliver of a silver lining of heartfelt humanism. The doomed romance of the film is introduced as an omen, when Inger, the shelter volunteer, must turn away Kwame, sending him out into the Denmark cold.
Even at its bleakest there is a warmth to the lighting of the film. It is a bittersweet film marked by its opposing crisp visual design. The look of the film does not take away from the melodrama elements, though, but merely keeps those elements from becoming too weighty.
What is most lacking from Silent Nights is its larger themes, which are boldly stated in certain lines of dialogue. It is a pathos-driven film that wears its messages on its sleeve.
As heavy handed as the script gets, the underlying narrative has a compelling duo of characters that keeps the film from stiffening into a straight message film. Although we hear too readily their thoughts and feelings, there is enough drama surrounding their characters to warrant interest in them.
Silent Nights is not a perfect encapsulation of the characters it is trying to depict, but it shows enough of the characters’ lives to be compelling. This and its visual display keep it from slipping into the quagmire of its blatant moralizing.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)