Film Review: A Quiet Place
by Alice Adlide
A Quiet Place is a nerve-racking, riveting horror. The film manages to stretch out those classic moments of tension present in many horror films - in which the protagonist is hiding and mustn’t make a sound - into an entire feature length film. A Quiet Place follows a family who are trying to survive in a grim world; ferocious blind monsters hunt everything and anything that makes a peep. The family’s survival depends on their silence. It’s a terrifying situation, and those of us in the audience who snore or sleep talk know we wouldn’t last a night. The audience is never privy to how these monsters got there; are they aliens? A botched science experiment? Either way, they are terrifying beasts who ruthlessly hunt with their pulsating super-hearing.
Luckily, the family is already well versed in sign language as their eldest daughter is deaf (so too is the remarkable actress Millicent Simmonds who plays her). They have managed to adapt remarkably well to their situation, for example eating off big spinach leaves instead of plates, playing monopoly with soft, padded pieces, and creating trails of sand for silent walking. Yet they live exercising constant caution - at any given moment their safety can be shattered with a simple sound.
"It’s a horror film, but one that espouses hope"
Fortunately for those of us who aren’t a fan of blood baths, the film largely avoids gratuitous gore. During the monster attacks, the camera mostly focuses on the horrified expressions of those looking on, playing more on the emotion of the characters than the sheer carnage. The cinematography is beautifully crafted, and at times wonderfully mesmeric. Though their situation is dire, the cinematography still captures the beauty of the landscape and the heart-warming moments the family manages to enjoy despite their harrowing reality. Given there is very little dialogue in the film, the relationships are established visually and the camera works to delicately capture the silent communications of love (and danger) between the characters.
Through the intense focus on silence, the audience participates in the tension felt by the protagonists. We all know what it’s like to sneak around a house trying not to make a sound for fear of waking someone. Imagine that, times a million.
For me, the film’s main merit is how it manages to depict the strong family ties and those more precious, intimate moments shared by the characters, without much dialogue at all. They seem to only use signed words when necessary, instead communicating with meaningful glances and a silent understanding; the actors, especially Emily Blunt and Simmonds, depict this silent, sacred relationship exquisitely. In one of the most tender moments in the film, we see Blunt’s character Evelyn share earphones and dance with her husband Lee (John Krasinski) to Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’. It creates such a beautiful moment that we, perhaps along with the characters, are allowed to forget for a second the impossible circumstances they find themselves in. Did I mention Blunt’s character is pregnant? Evelyn’s pregnancy looms ominously, which contrasts with delicate scenes of Evelyn setting up a hanging mobile for the baby-to-be. I won’t give anything away, but A Quiet Place definitely contains the most intensely fraught labour scene I have ever watched.
The film isn’t without its plot holes (why can the monsters hear a pin drop from miles away yet not hear heartbeats when in the same room as humans? Why doesn’t the family spend more time at the waterfall?), but there’s a beauty and hopefulness in the family’s attempts at normalcy in such a disastrous world. Arguably the film could’ve taken a leaf out of Hitchcock’s The Birds and done without the string-based thriller soundtrack. Having any soundtrack at all, at least for me, seems to detract from the silence of the film; I feel it might’ve been all the more affecting by not using any non-diegetic sound at all.
The defiance present in all the characters is awe-inspiring; they fight to keep alive, to stay together, to protect one another in almost impossible circumstances. It’s a horror film, but one that espouses hope and explores the unparalleled bond between parents and children. And, might I add, one of the best final shots I have seen in a horror movie. I was left wanting more, but equally breathing a (loud) sigh of relief when the film finished. All in all, A Quiet Place is an unbelievably tense, beautifully composed emotional roller-coaster.
A Quiet Place is in cinemas now.
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.