Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place is an invitation to consider the people and the things around you. A family member can be a source of great comfort, but innocent mistakes can have life-changing consequences and the responsibilities that we bear to one another can sometimes push us to our limits. At the same time, everyday things transcend their purpose and take on new meaning in a family's life. What makes A Quiet Place - directed and cowritten by and also starring John Krasinski - so effective are the ways that things and people we are comfortable with are pushed just slightly out of focus. Also, there are monsters. In a near future that looks very much like our present, society has collapsed. Humanity has fallen to a race of predatory creatures that cannot see but which respond with speed and violence to the slightest sound. We don't know exactly where the Abbott family lives, but they seem to be among the very last people left on Earth. The Abbotts are Lee (Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), and their deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and sons Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward). Routines are established which are matters of survival: sign language, walking barefoot on paths laid out in sand, and emergency procedures to follow if the very worst should happen. Any mistake, like the one that happens during an after dinner game of Monopoly, could mean the end of everything. There is a way in which Krasinski establishes the normal rhythms and dynamics of the Abbotts' lives in a tight 90-minute film that is very touching, all the more because we know how close the danger is. Krasinski plays Lee with a harried dignity that he hasn't shown onscreen before. He's the family's rock in the best sense but the strain is showing, especially when Regan refuses to try another in a series of homemade hearing aids that her father has made for her. Regan, carrying guilt over a previous accident, is beginning to assert her independence and to wonder where she fits into the family. Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf, is an amazingly expressive performer who is asked to carry much of the film's emotional burden. When Krasinski cuts to Regan's point of view he drops the sound out entirely, a choice that is never used for cheap scares but rather to dramatize just how unusually difficult her fight to stay alive is. A Quiet Place builds to an extended climax during which the family is separated, and Emily Blunt's Evelyn gets a full emotional arc to play in just few shots. (It's not a spoiler to reveal that the film's longest stretch of dialogue occurs in a homemade soundproof room.) But to say too much more would dilute the pleasures of this highly experiential film. Krasinski's direction is confident, with only one moment of yada-yada exposition required, and the ensemble work from the actors is excellent. A Quiet Place is filled with the love and anxiety that parents feel for their children, and it shouldn't be written off just as a well-made genre piece. The combination of craft, imagination, and emotion put forward here is truly urgent and personal cinema.

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