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Silver Haze (Film Review)

3 min read

's Silver Haze is a delicate portrait of Franky () who navigates her physical and emotional trauma which weaves through the highs and lows of love and self-acceptance. The title points to two directions this film takes: one is about finding fleeting moments of tenderness in a murky and gritty world, even if these moments are just pretend and the other is to contrast a stark reality where silver linings seem imperceptible. 

Franky is a 23-year-old nurse who lives with her large family in East London. Florence () is one of Franky's patients. The pair are drawn to each other instantly, attracted by their mutual need for escapism from their constant search for something they feel is missing. They head to the coast to meet Florence's grandmother Alice (Angela Bruce), an exceedingly warm-hearted person who gives herself over to taking care of others, including Franky. 

Polak had cast Knight before in her 2019 film Dirty God in which Knight played an acid attack victim. Continuing the subject matter, she has described Silver Haze as being loosely based on Knight's own experiences as a child when she survived an arson attack. Indeed, Franky's journey in the film is not just about working through the anger and devastation of what happened to her but also about trying to decipher which of her memories from the fateful night of the fire are true and which aren't. 

Although Franky's inner conflict is explicitly laid out for us to absorb, Florence's is elusive. Florence is stuck within her kaleidoscopic web of hurt and neglect, often finding herself on the warpath with herself. Polak examines these characters with an understated yet empathetic lens, asking you to appreciate the complexity of their lives at every turn. It is beautifully compelling that even in the face of her dying grandmother, where we might normally interpret the actions of Florence as deeply unkind towards Alice, we are instead encouraged by Polak to see Florence's actions as those coming from someone who is badly hurting. 

The chaotic sequencing of events and lack of narrative-building towards Franky's attachment to Alice, including the underwhelming end, somewhat lets this film down. But there are so many points of detail in this film which come together to create an overall vivid and realistic image. From glimpses of a brutalist East London cityscape to the family banter during TV dinners in front of the telly, to a scene where Charlotte asks why a neighbour is wearing a hijab underscored by her tone of yearning to find the same solace in faith. Equally, Silver Haze doesn't shy away from showing the most vile parts of people too like the horrifying scene where Florence and Vicky are attacked on a bus, echoing the real-life homophobic attacks that have taken place on London buses. 

It's the small details along with the flicker of hope that permeates Franky's story, that make Silver Haze the understated humanist film that it is.

Silver Haze will be released in UK & Irish cinemas by BFI Distribution on 29th March 2024