There’s a lot to unwrap for the family at the center of Keira Knightley’s new apocalyptic Christmas movie.
The English actress stars in the dark comedy “Silent Night” as a concerned mother who tries to salvage one final Christmas dinner with her loved ones as the end of the world rapidly approaches.
“Christmas always, when you’re an adult, is quite an interesting time of year, because often you’re sort of forced into a house with your extended family,” Knightley said. “The family dynamics can be quite explosive, and then you add alcohol into the mix, and then you add the pressure of it being Christmas, and therefore everybody having to have a good time.
“I love that this (movie) took that ... and then added the extra pressure of it being the last Christmas,” she said. “So not only is it a Christmas you have to enjoy, but it’s your last day on Earth.”
Tensions are high throughout “Silent Night,” now in theaters and on AMC+, as Knightley’s Nell hosts her relatives at an estate in rural England.
Earth is facing an environmental crisis, as a fast-spreading toxic cloud kills everyone who encounters it. The British government encourages citizens to take suicide pills, causing contention within Nell’s family.
“She’s decided that either (her family is) going to die a horrific death, because whatever it is that’s been released is going to kill them horrifically, or they’re going to take the government-administered pill,” said Knightley, 36. “They’ll go to sleep and they’ll die, but it’ll be a very gentle death and they’ll know nothing about it.”
The film also stars Roman Griffin Davis as Art — one of Nell’s three sons — who questions the necessity of taking the pill and doesn’t trust what the government is telling the public.
“He’s got very opposing opinions to the rest of his family. ... He’s kind of challenging the truth,” said Davis, 14.
Davis, who previously played the title character in the World War II-era satire “Jojo Rabbit,” said the looming apocalypse in the movie helped emphasize how badly the family wanted Christmas to be perfect.
“In the end, they get a dysfunctional mess,” Davis said.
“Silent Night” was written and directed by Davis’ mother, Camille Griffin, whose other two sons also appear in the movie.
Knightley praised the way that the filmmaker infused comedy, horror and psychological elements into the Christmastime flick.
“I just read the script and loved it, and thought it was absolutely hilarious in the most obscene, shocking way,” Knightley said. “I think part of it was because I was incredibly pregnant, and I had a really hard pregnancy, and I was feeling very annoyed. When I read it, it was exactly what I needed in that particular moment.”
Knightley, who starred in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and received Oscar nominations for “Pride and Prejudice” and “The Imitation Game,” said her character badly wants to protect her kids from the impending doom, but is ultimately failing.
“She has the image of her kids as being younger than they are,” Knightley said. “They actually need a lot more from her than she can give, and she’s sort of babying them in a way that is unhelpful, and yet it’s this incredibly extreme sort of scenario. I totally forgave her for the way that she’s slightly mucking up.”