Tribeca 2023: Sacha Polak’s ‘Silver Haze’

What can I say, I gravitate toward the queer shit. In Silver Haze, Franky (Vicky Knight) is a burn victim who works as a nurse and falls in love with one of her patients, Florence (Esme Creed-Miles) who is hospitalized after a suicide attempt. 

Franky and her sister Leah (Charlotte Knight) live at home with their chain-smoking mom, all three of them emotionally wounded by the husband & father having left them to start a new family with a woman who they suspect started the fire that physically wounded Franky 15 years earlier. This aspect of the film draws from real life: Vicky Knight has scars over 33% of her body from a fire that started in a pub where she was sleeping in the apartment above as a child. This is the same circumstance used in the film, though I didn’t know that when watching. However prosthetic scarring will possibly never convince me again in a movie, because Knight’s real scarring was so obviously authentic. 

Leah is supportive of Franky’s sexuality – in fact while Franky is still closeted, Leah grabs her phone and sets her online dating profile to show women, because Leah can tell what’s going on. Their mother is not so accepting, so Franky moves in with Florence, who lives with her Nan, who has cancer, and her cousin, who seems to be autistic. 

The two women have a romance so beautiful in its working class grime that it could only be doomed to fail. And sure enough, Florence starts going off the rails, a serious underlying mental health condition rearing up, making her a danger to all who love her. I’m not so jazzed about this storyline or characterization, to be honest. Florence, as written, turns into a stereotype of a bipolar bisexual. But Creed-Miles’ performance is quite good, and Knight’s is fantastic, so the relationship itself is believable.  

When Nan’s cancer gets bad, Vicky is there for her, and grows close to Jack as well. Leah comes over for dinners and even Franky and Vicky’s mother accepts these new people into her life. I’m a sucker for a chosen family storyline, and it’s through choosing Florence’s family as her own that Vicky heals from 15 years of hating her own father. 

Silver Haze is messy, and it’s lovely: it’s working class London and it works as a film.

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