They were identical twins, two black girls in a white world with a bond so strong that no one else could get in. Now her fascinating – and disturbing – story is coming to the big screen.
“It definitely messed with my head,” Letitia Wright told the Post of filming her new movie The Silent Twins, which opens in theaters Friday.
When June and Jennifer Gibbons were born, their parents knew early on that there was something unique about them. Or rather between them.
“They started talking late and when they finally spoke, their words came out garbled. They chirped and squeaked and mispronounced the syllables,” Marjorie Wallace, author of the 1986 book The Silent Twins, told NPR in 2015. “No one else could understand them. It was as if they were speaking a foreign language. They both moved in a kind of synchronicity.”
Wright (“Black Panther”) and Tamara Lawrance (“Kindred”) star in “The Silent Twins,” the stranger-than-fictional tale of the Gibbons twins; You play an adult June and Jennifer in Agnieszka Smoczynska’s tale of her confusing life story, adapted from Wallace’s book.
Jennifer and June’s parents were from Barbados and the twins were born in 1963 on a British military base in Yemen where their father was stationed. In the early 1970s the family settled in Wales, where the girls were the only black children in their primary school.
The bullying they experienced seemed to increase their bond and reluctance to communicate with others, earning the girls the nickname “the silent twins.”
“Although the family spoke English at home, young June and Jennifer Gibbons began speaking another language, believed to be an accelerated version of Bajan Creole,” reports All That’s Interesting.
As the film shows, June and Jennifer talked animatedly until another person entered the room, and then fell down passively and silently, head down.
“Their silence was a protest against racism — systemic racism that they experienced as children and couldn’t fully understand,” Wright told the Post.
The twins’ bond, while inseparable, wasn’t always loving.
According to Wallace’s book, Jennifer once tried to strangle June with a radio cord, while June once tried to drown Jennifer after struggling for the attention of some boys.
The girls became more and more isolated as they got older, withdrew into their own worlds and eventually turned to criminal behavior. In 1981 they burned down a tractor dealership, subsequently injuring a firefighter; Shortly thereafter, they were caught vandalizing and attempting to set fire to a technical college.
In 1982, the teenage twins were arrested and sentenced at Broadmoor, a British maximum security facility for those labeled “criminally insane”. In the years before the arrest, they had dropped out of school and crouched in their room to speak and write in their common language. They filled countless notebooks with their stories and bought a typewriter to submit their work to magazines.
“If they were born during this period, they would be New York Times best-selling authors and child prodigies,” Wright said.
The film brings her fantastical, melancholic lyrics to life in stop-motion animation sequences.
Wallace heard about the twins from a fellow journalist and began visiting them in Broadmoor.
To their surprise, she struck up a friendship with them, telling them that their parents let them read their notebooks. They broke her silence to ask her if she liked her writing and told her they dreamed of becoming a writer. But the things they wrote, she found, contained angry screeds about their own relationship. Wallace shared an excerpt from Jennifer with NPR:
“We have become mortal enemies in each other’s eyes,” the twins wrote. “We feel the irritating lethal rays emanate from our bodies and pierce each other’s skin. I say to myself, can I get rid of my own shadow – impossible or not possible? Would I die without my shadow? Without my shadow, would I gain life, be free, or be left to die?”
Wallace, one of the only people June and Jennifer spoke to, eventually gave a detailed account of the behavior, which allegedly startled Broadmoor employees. The twins would take turns on which of them would eat while the other got hungry. They were separated for a time, and staff found that despite being held in cells far apart, both girls were motionless and frozen in exactly the same position.
Wright said re-enacting the young women’s time in Broadmoor was the most challenging part of the shoot.
“It was really hard for us to do those things every day, but I dedicated myself to it along with Tamara because that was the truth of the experience and I wanted people to see it,” she said. “So, yeah, it messed me up, but I made myself into being a vessel. When you see this film you will see what they went through.”
Eventually, the twins were eligible for a transfer to another hospital, one that would allow them to be paroled. Before they left, they met with Wallace. Jennifer said to her, “Marjorie, I’m going to die.” The journalist laughed nervously at this, but the twin insisted, telling her they made the decision together.
As a bus carrying the twins left Broadmoor, Jennifer reportedly fell onto June’s shoulder and slipped into a coma. The 29-year-old was pronounced dead later that day and was found to have swelling around her heart.
“Doctors at the Caswell Clinic concluded that the medication given to the girls at Broadmoor must have provoked Jennifer’s immune system – although they also found June was given the same medication and was perfectly healthy when she arrived,” All That’s reported Interesting.
After her initial shock at Jennifer’s death, June reportedly thrived and came out of her shell. She lives today, lives in West Wales and is a writer. The Pepsi-Cola Addict – a novel she wrote when she and Jennifer were 16 and originally printed by a cosmetics press – is slated for release next year.
https://nypost.com/2022/09/15/true-story-behind-the-silent-twins-movie-with-letitia-wright/ True story behind the movie The Silent Twins starring Letitia Wright