Review: A Young Woman Navigates Estranged Family, a New Relationship and Emotional Volatility in Silver Haze

The latest from filmmaker Sacha Polak, Silver Haze, re-teams her with her Dirty God star, Vicky Knight, who plays Franky, a 23-year-old nurse living at home in East London with her verbally abusive, alcoholic mother and her siblings, and dating a guy she doesn’t really love. Franky is still living with the after effects of a terrible fire that happened 15 years earlier that burned a great deal of her torso and has left her eager to get revenge, since the person she believes is responsible for it used to be her mom’s best friend and is now married to her father. As a result of her being physically and emotionally damaged from the traumatic event, Franky finds it impossible to build any kind of meaningful bond with other people.

One day at the hospital where she works, she meets a patient named Florence (Esme Creed-Miles), who has unsuccessfully tried to kill herself and, for obvious reasons, Franky sees a kindred spirit in this young woman. The two become fast friends, and when Florence takes Franky to her home on the coast, she meets Florence’s patchwork family, including a mother figure dying of cancer and a “brother” who is likely autistic. But this “family you choose” seems more supportive and open-minded than anything Franky has going on with her blood relatives, and she ends up moving in and starting a whirlwind love affair with Florence, who begins to show signs that her emotional stability is tenuous at best.

Most of the time, Silver Haze is pure, uncut emotional chaos, with Franky being pushed away and pulled closer by Florence from moment to moment. And the more unhappy Franky becomes, the more determined she is to get her estranged father’s attention by doing everything from low-grade stalking to actually throwing a Molotov cocktail through his front window, which somehow doesn’t explode. The pair suffer everything from verbal harassment from Franky’s family to actual physical abuse from a homophobic ex of Franky’s sister. They find it’s easier to defend themselves against outside attackers than it is to survive the turmoil that is Florence’s unstable emotional state. The film is quite moving at times, somewhat predictable, but surprisingly fulfilling and beautifully acted throughout.

The film will play in theaters beginning March 1, and will be available via VOD on March 12.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.