The Silent Twins, this true story comes close to good

Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance in The Silent Twins

The Silent Twins tells the true story of two young Black twins growing up in Wales who refused to talk to anyone but each other. Learning more about their case sounds interesting, but the film left too much out for me to give it high marks.

Leah Mondesir-Simmonds and Eva-Arianna Baxter in The Silent Twins
June and Jennifer as young girls

The Silent Twins stars Letitia Wright and Leah Mondesir-Simmonds as June. Jennifer was played by Tamara Lawrance and Eva-Arianna Baxter. The two young actors as well as the grown women did an excellent job with the physical parts of the story. The girls moved in sync, had a number of knock down physical fights, communicated through glances when not alone.

The thing that interested me was never explained, and is the reason why I feel the film was inadequate. WHY? Why did they behave this way? It was hinted at: perhaps because of Jennifer’s slight speech impediment, or perhaps because of the neighborhood bullies.

And why did they persist with it for so long? They were separated, sent to psychiatrists, arrested, put in a mental institution. They could have saved themselves from all of that if they’d only talked. The girls made decisions that hurt them, were bad for them. They stuck with their choices through sheer force of will. I wanted to know more about that.

As girls, the twins had a rich imaginative life. They wrote stories. Their imaginations came to life in the film with animations. The dolls, dogs, birds and other props used in the animations were hideous, another unexplained choice. As teens, Jennifer managed to sell some of her stories.

As teens, they wanted to get out of the house. They wanted adventure. They found a boy, Wayne (Jack Bandeira), who treated them as equals. He offered them drugs, sex, danger, crime. They talked to him!

After they’d been placed in a mental institution, they met Marjorie Wallace (Jodhi May). Wallace was a journalist. She wrote a book about the twins that this movie is based on. Finally, finally, they talked. They shared their writing with her.

When they were released from the mental institution, the ending was a tragic one. Another event in the film that had no explanation as to WHY.

The Silent Twins was directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska. The choices she made with the colors used for both the interior and exterior details of the twins world were excellent. I just wish there had been more in the script to help viewers understand these two girls who lived as one.

2 thoughts on “The Silent Twins, this true story comes close to good”

  1. Gwendolyn Lovett

    Stating it succinctly, I did not enjoy The Sisters. The movie didn’t really tell June and Jennifer Gibbons’ story, just snipped at it in places and hacked it into incomprehensible bits in others. The twins mostly came across as a couple of psychopaths. There were layers to this story that the movie did not come close to touching on.

    Now my thesis (LOL):

    I read an article and watched a video clip where Marjorie Wallace, the journalist who wrote the book about the twins, said the sisters had a great sense of humor. Wallace (also poorly depicted in the movie) said their humor is what she loved most about Jennifer and June. We saw none of this in the movie. Showing their wit and humor would have added warmth and dimension to the story. Would have helped to make the twins relatable.

    Instead, the director (and I suppose to some extent the screenwriter) was more fascinated with the twins’ imaginations. The trippy imagery only served to force me into the filmmaker’s mind, not the twins’. I did not understand what was going on, and quickly stopped caring. It was only much later that I discovered the animations were the twins’ own work being used to convey their rich imaginations. In any event, there was too much of it. A glut of surreal imagery is never worth more than one powerfully-rendered emotion. There were none in The Sisters.

    Tidbits and emotional beats the movie didn’t include: the twins’ psychological condition is called selective mutism, an anxiety disorder. They chose to stop speaking to others when they were three years old. They were the only Black family in that town in Wales. The town had a reputation for racism; however, I read a comment on a movie review from a native that disputed that. Of course, I don’t know, but from a psychological point of view and experientialy, bullying and racism are not one and the same. Wallace became involved with the twins after Tim Thomas, the educational psychologist who counseled them, asked Wallace to be their champion. Jennifer died a little over a week after she said to Wallace that she would. At the time, June affirmed Jennifer’s premonition. Wallace said that it was the most chilling moment in her journalistic life. Shortly before falling into a coma, Jennifer said to June, “At last we are free”. June told Wallace that she believed that Jennifer sacrificed her life to liberate her (June). Jennifer’s cause of death was acute myocarditis, inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall, which can lead to heart failure.

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