Bringing true events to the screen requires a level of dedication. Giving a look into the lives and imagination of two young Black girls who were deeply misunderstood by the world around them, there was an unspoken loyalty for The Silent Twins to both uphold and speak to their truth.
Based on Marjorie Wallace’s best-selling book and directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska, the biographical drama film — starring Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance — tells the story of June and Jennifer Gibbons.
While living in the predominantly white Wales, England in the 1970s and 80s, the twins formed an inseparable bond including their own language to escape from the racism, alienation, and trauma they experienced. Their response to be silent to others around them was a deafening message, but ultimately led to them being institutionalized at the notorious Broadmoor Hospital for over a decade.
The film’s focus on mental illness hits close to home for Wright, who in the past has been outspoken about her battle with depression.
She hopes for the film to add to the larger conversation at hand regarding mental health in the Black community.
“I hope that our film shines a light on the consequences of misdiagnosing someone,” Wright expressed to Shadow and Act in a recent interview. “Unfortunately the twins in our film, they were misdiagnosed in a way that cost them so many years of their lives. What we hope to do with this film is to shine a light on the importance of figuring out what young people are going through. Not to just box them up and put them away, but to actually give them the time and the space to express how they’re feeling and what they’re going through. So we can go on that journey of healing with them in a better and a healthier way.”
Wright and Lawrance not only embodied their acting roles but also served as the producer and executive producer of the film to ensure the story of the teenagers, at the time, was told with care.
June and Jennifer Gibbons’ diary entries, poetry, and short stories were incorporated throughout the film, similarly to the book.
For Lawrance, having verbatim passages from the twins’ writing helped give her a greater understanding of them, and in turn for viewers to hopefully do the same.
“I think for me that really helped to get into the psyche of the twins individually, but also the shared twinship to understand and humanize them,” Lawrance shared. “I think more as typical teenage girls rather than the objective depiction that we already have of them, which is kind of mystical, witchy or something like that. That helped me to understand that from the inside, this is very much a coming of age story and to lean into the creativity that was so much at their disposal as their salient way of expressing rather than thinking of them as women or young girls that were damaged or unwell.”
The Silent Twins is now in theaters.