[Tribeca Film Festival Review] SILVER HAZE

[Tribeca Film Festival Review] SILVER HAZE

“What is more important — justice or answers?” asks SILVER HAZE, the new LGBTQIA+ drama from director Sacha Polak.

Vicky Knight plays Franky, a 23-year-old nurse living with her family in the United Kingdom. She meets people from all walks of life at her job, and one day, she starts up a friendship with a new patient, Florence (Esmé Creed-Miles). They quickly form a bond as Florence heals from a recent suicide attempt. Franky can relate to her pain — her skin is covered in burn scars from a childhood injury that changed her life forever.

The character’s arc is very familiar to actress Vicky Knight, who was badly burnt in a fire at age 8. The actor’s scars are real, and much of the story told in SILVER HAZE is taken from Knight’s real-life experiences. Parts of the movie are even taken verbatim from Knight’s own interviews. She dealt with years of bullying in the aftermath of childhood burns that covered a third of her body. When she grew up, she pursued a nursing career. Then, Knight starred in Polak’s 2019 movie Dirty God. She has said this acting gig “changed her life,” and instead of being noticed for her burns, she began to be recognized for her talents as an actor. Knight’s performance in SILVER HAZE, her second movie with Polak, is powerful and immersive. Her bright green eyes evoke emotions Franky can’t put into words, and Knight has effortless chemistry with Creed-Miles.

Florence and Franky’s relationship is intense from the start — they fall for each other fast and quickly start living together. But Florence isn’t always in the mood to be around Franky and her explosive bursts of anger crop up more and more. Meanwhile, Franky begins to spend time with Alice (Angela Bruce), Florence’s guardian, as she faces the end of her life.

The film celebrates essential elements of being in the LGBTQIA+ community in the modern day. This non-exhaustive list includes loving who you love, living authentically, finding your true family, overcoming adversity, making close friendships and family ties along the way, wearing glitter, smoking weed, and partying. SILVER HAZE’s characters are gritty and realistic, smoking endless cigs and spliffs with unwashed hair and fast-fashion party clothes. Tibor Dingelstad’s cinematography ensures that as the family is drinking and smoking weed together for a birthday party, you feel like you’re plopped right there on the couch with them, easily immersed in their family dynamic.

A glittering, shimmering song scores one romantic bedroom scene. SILVER HAZE also chooses carefully when to include music (by Joris Oonk and Ella van der Woude) and when to let the actors’ unspoken words float in silence.

Despite a blossoming romance, revenge for the person who started the fateful fire so many years ago is always on Franky’s mind. Franky places the blame for the fire on her mom’s best friend, who then left deeper wounds that still hurt Franky even years later. She says she’s only recently become comfortable in her skin. We see her angrily typing out a message early in the film demanding, “I WANT ANSWERS. IT’S BEEN 15 YEARS.”

The name SILVER HAZE bears multiple meanings. There’s the silver haze of the gloomy weather as Franky solemnly releases balloons for a deceased loved one lost long ago. And Silver Haze is also a Sativa marijuana strain, notable because there’s an ever-present silver haze of cigarette and weed smoke in the air. Every person is trying to soothe the causes of their pain as best they can, and this movie doesn’t shy away from staring pain in the face. SILVER HAZE is a genuine story of queer love and finding oneself that shouldn’t be missed.

SILVER HAZE made its North American premiere at Tribeca Film Festival.

Remy Millisky
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