Berlinale 2023: Silver Haze - An unmistakable sense of hope with a fairy-tale ending
Straight from Berlinale to your electronic devices, we bring to you the films that make the right kind of noises
Not just the protagonist Franky (Vicky Knight), but almost every character in Sacha Polak’s Silver Haze is a wounded soul. Franky hasn’t emerged from a fire accident that singed and scarred her, not just physically, but deep within. “I want answers. It’s been 15 years,” she cries aloud, almost every day, trying hard to pin down and bring the culprits to justice. Her mother is not just overbearing but a restless insomniac with unresolved mental health issues of her own. Her father has abandoned them to start a family with another woman. Someone she and her sister Leah (Charlotte Knight) stalk and curse and, in their anger, even try to cause harm from afar.
Fulfillment eludes her in her relationship with boyfriend Flynn. A chance encounter with attractive and capricious Florence (Esme Creed Miles), while on her hospital duty as a nurse, leads to fresh possibilities for Franky. A newfound love and a liberal, kind proxy family to belong that accepts her for who she is. But it doesn’t take long for even them to show signs of dysfunctionality what with Florence’s life itself in quite a mess—there’s an autistic brother Jack (Archie Brigden), cancer-stricken grandmother Alice (Angela Bruce), and demons within her mind making her prone to eating disorders, moody, violent and suicidal.
Based on some of the events from Knight’s own life, Silver Haze is a Netherlands-UK co-production that played in the Panorama section of Berlinale 2023. It draws much of its depth, authenticity and effectiveness from Knight’s unflinching and intense portrayal of a role that is imbued with many bits of her own self. Miles is striking as Florence and proves to be just the right enigmatic foil to Knight. Between them they make the audience dissect, re-evaluate and redefine notions of beauty, love, romance, companionship, relationship, togetherness, and family.
However, while the film is frank, forthright, and searing in its portrayal of Franky’s reality, Polack irons the creases when it comes to the depiction of Alice’s affliction. It’s where the film gets predictably mushy, and the narrative turns patchy. The finale feels abrupt, a hurriedly brought about closure.
Silver Haze may not aim to please. It is set in the raw, grim, and gritty reality of working-class life in Britain. Yet the unmistakable sense of hope embedded deep in its core gushes out in the almost fairy-tale ending that is all about opening new doors to fresh possibilities in life. The moral of the story, articulated by Alice, might seem simple and replicable: we may not be able to forget easily but must understand that everyone makes mistakes. Life is in forgiving, moving on, and in not looking back with anger. But if only it was all so easy.