John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place is nerve-wracking, affecting, frustrating, and life-affirming. In this, it’s a bit like parenthood in general. More of a sci-fi thriller in the vein of M. Night Shyamalan than pure horror (A Quiet Place certainly parallels Signs in numerous plot points and set design), A Quiet Place is a story of a family’s quiet life on a farm, albeit one where frightening hostile creatures sensitive to sound roam the landscape. Portrayed by real-life couple Emily Blunt and Krasinski, Evelyn and Lee Abbott care for and raise their children in this unsettling world, one where the future is totally uncertain. Yet rather than give into fear or despair, the Abbott family’s posture is one of creativity and the affirmation of life. Evelyn is pregnant, and a crying newborn baby is difficult to keep quiet for any length of time. But there is no question of abandoning the child for the sake of the family’s survival, no seen discussions about “options” or implications; they’re having a baby, and this is good news. It’ll change things, but they’ll make it work. Such is parenthood.
A Quiet Place is a film with a monastic ethos. The family lives a quiet communal life on an isolated farm in the wilderness, going through the rhythms–the daily office–of survival in this silent post-apocalyptic world. They pray silently before sharing a meal together, holding hands in in solidarity. They gather food and do their chores in silent faithfulness. They light beacons at night to shine hope into the darkness, and see other fires signaling in the distance. Even their last name–Abbott–bespeaks of this cloistered lifestyle. It’s a creative lifestyle too. They’ve created pathways of sand to soften their footsteps, found ways to play board games without making a noise, and communicate silently via ASL, a skill they’ve adopted as a family for the oldest daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf. Simmonds gives a phenomenal performance as a young woman coming-of-age in such a broken world, haunted by the guilt and pain of a past tragedy; she’s deaf in real-life, which imbues each scenario with authenticity. Krasinski and Blunt’s real-life romantic chemistry also shines through in their depiction of parents gripped by a sincere unconditional love for their children and each other. There are very words spoken aloud in A Quiet Place, but one moment which occurs mid-way in the film between Lee and Evelyn is as genuine of a parenting conversation as I’ve seen on film in years. “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” Evelyn asks, even demands of Lee. “We have to protect them,” she utters as tears well up in both their eyes. It’s heartbreaking and affecting because it’s real, at least for this parent of three young children. Raising my kids in our present-day world can feel so overwhelming at times, but it’s also a beautiful gift and vocation. We have to protect them. But we also have to equip them to survive and thrive as the next generation.
The tension in A Quiet Place relies heavily on the sound design, ratcheting the volume up on small noises to Bressonian levels of audience awareness. Krasinski and his team, especially cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen, milk this premise–be quiet or you die!–for all its worth, placing characters in different painful, impossible scenarios and asking the audience to hold their breath for the duration of the terror, anticipating an attack at any moment. A sequence with Evelyn going into labor in a bathtub while a creature stalks her is downright terrifying. Still, there are some expository aspects which feel far too obvious, like Krasinski is spoon-feeding the audience and not trusting our perceptive abilities (e.g. Lee has a white board has in his workroom which literally has “WHAT IS THE WEAKNESS?” written on it, and which comes into play at just the right moment for Regan), and there are some logic/plot issues regarding the characters’ decisions and capacities. Still, A Quiet Place is a fresh, thrilling cinematic experience which emphasizes the goodness of family life, even in the midst of a world gone mad.
IMDB Listing: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6644200/