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Silver Haze – Berlinale 2023 (Film Review)

2 min read

Still Courtesy - New Europe Film Sales

The titular enigma behind 's latest collaboration with non-professional actor provides the basis for the film's alluring structure. A marijuana strain used to treat minor chronic aches and pains, Polak's feature emulates the allusive health-benefits of the forbidden plant, to mirror the lead protagonist's fractured journey. The film's structure reflects the literal highs and lows of its on-screen cannabis consumption; shifting focus in near-hysteric fashion. Silver Haze directorial attempts at executing a feature-length mood-swing adds flavour to Polak's pre-established framing device. There's distinguished relief to the stringent chronology of events. Regrettably, Silver Haze's loose recreation of Knight's own improvisations & familiar recollections fall flat due to Polak's unconvincing dialogue and subplot-insistent narrative.

As previously mentioned, there is structural motive to Polak's feature. The presentation of its respective subplots are naturally connected to Franky's internal journey for consolidation. As a result, the film builds tension through its ambiguity. By the end of the film's predicted close, there is some satisfaction with finally witnessing Polak's teased resolution first-hand. On the down-side, the remainder of her disjointed tapestry frequently disengages the viewer from its simplistic inciting-conflict. Relentlessly refusing to elaborate and provide a clear thematic go-between with its cinematic romance and opposing revenge-plot — Silver Haze unfortunately compartmentalises the emotional weight of its humanitarian beauty. The muddled screenplay lacks specificity, as the uneven tempo bombards the narrative with needless background information. Scenes collapse at the clutch of its poor focus. Polak's messy writing introduces new subjects and conflicts ad-nauseam, throughout the film's already compact narrative.

Silver Haze has its heart in the right place, as Polak's end goal is to amplify marginalised voices and members of the working class through affecting on-screen representation. Whilst its attempts at destigmatisation are affable, the film also ignorantly implements outdated tropes into its potpourri of split-emotions. Silver Haze‘s inclusion of a magical minority trope (as portrayed by Angela Bruce's unconvincing turn as a friendly & elderly Black wise-woman who offers words of wisdom and shelter for Frankie and her partner), merely detracts from the film's admirable attempts at representation. The raucous sentimentality and kitschy character-revelations only deviate the film's integral mission for communion and compassion into problematic waters. 

There's promise at the crux of Polak's persisting . In its beguiling attempts at highlighting and commemorating the trials and tribulations of Britain's working class, the film's tonal whiplash poorly builds upon Polak's alluring design. Silver Haze is a flimsy melodramatic endeavour, even with its enriching structure present. Vicky Knight's return to the silver-screen is a disappointment; a messy albeit optimistic film that leaves its audience with an empty stomach. Less means more, as the team's respective attempts at eradicating social-misconceptions & stigmatisation surrounding mental-health and Queer relationships are appreciated. 

Still Courtesy – New Europe Film Sales
Silver Haze premiered in the Panorama section as part of the 73rd Berlin Film Festival. The film is currently seeking international distribution.