A Quiet Place (2018) - Can't Stop the Movies
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A Quiet Place (2018)

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Humanity has been ravaged by deadly creatures who hunt via sound and whoever remains live their lives in quiet routine.  The Abbott family, reeling from the loss of their youngest child, prepares for the birth of the newest addition by taking as many sound-dampening precautions as possible.  God laughs, and the Abbotts must respond to the threat facing their home.  John Krasinski directs A Quiet Place, with the screenplay written by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski, and stars Millicent Simmonds, John Krasinski, and Emily Blunt.

The power of diversity and representation in cinema doesn't come from hitting a quota or an excuse to use different aesthetics.  It comes from the ability to tell different stories, focus on unexplored dimensions of established tropes, and let those who haven't had the opportunity to play with the big toys show what they can do.

Director and star John Krasinski is not a deaf performer but filmed A Quiet Place with a big creative rule - if the deaf performers or mentors have an idea then figure out how to implement it.  Krasinski, following this guideline with costar Millicent Simmonds and backstage mentor Douglas Ridloff, crafts a horror film that is absolutely thrilling from start to finish with a world that feels more lived-in than dramas taking place in "real" cities.  I'm not a fan of talking about whether something is believable or not but I'm all about verisimilitude, and A Quiet Place has the appearance of truth even with its otherworldly skeletal microphone beasts.

Millicent Simmonds is essential to the success of A Quiet Place, so much so you can feel the other performers looking to her for guidance in silence.

Krasinski takes an opposite visual position from the similarly structured film Hush, which also featured a mute character hunted by someone who can hear.  While Hush focused on sounds that elicit physical sensation with corresponding closeups, Krasinski works with cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen to craft a world that feels, and looks, hollow without sound.  I loved the opening montage, going from big empty helicopter shots of a once lively city, to medium shots of Lee (Krasinski) foraging for supplies with his family, to closeups of the sparsely stocked shelves of a store.  In fearing a world of sound, which would mark them as prey, they've created an empty space with little room for life.

That fear gives way to a large number of lived-in details that I adored.  Instead of hard plastic or metal pieces the kids - Regan (Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) - use scraps of cloth or leather.  Clunky stoves get replaced with steam cookers underneath floorboards to mask any sound from escaping.  It's details like these that get me looking at my world differently, considering the creaks and light snapping of a door closing to the screeching groan then bang of opening and shutting my oven door.  Even the sets and altered spaces add to the lived-in feel with familiar footpaths matting down dirt as families outside Lee's have eliminated the possibility of a tree limb cracking or bridge groaning when they walk the same path every day.

The tension starts with an early tragedy which shows how quickly the beasts can strike and fade away.  All the careful visual setup initially pays off in a terrifying swooping shot that rotates around Lee and his family before picking off his youngest because of an innocent toy.  This also sets up one of the most fruitful relationships in A Quiet Place between Lee and Regan, which also provides a double whammy of commentary.

Scott Beck and Bryan Woods cowrote the screenplay with Krasinski and they manage to avoid a very specific issue with men making stories about marginalized groups.  The issue is how many men (including Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049) have made their struggle with whether they should be telling the stories of marginalized people a prominent point in their own films.  Recently it's started to feel like the men are congratulating themselves onscreen by questioning their right to tell the story while not ceding control.  Beck, Woods, and Krasinski eschew this path altogether, focusing specifically on how Regan is a capable hand at avoiding the creatures as how attuned she is to the pain her family is in.

The subplot involving Evelyn's pregnancy is traumatic to the point I was having sympathy pain flashbacks à la Window Water Baby Moving.

It's Regan's handiness that also makes some aspects of mother Evelyn's (Emily Blunt) character easier to handle.  There was an easy road Beck, Woods, and Krasinski could have taken considering Evelyn's pregnant and that opens up a whole well of opportunities for Lee to enter the scene for a manly man routine.  Instead they provide tender interludes, like when Lee and Evelyn share earbuds to dance together, or opportunities for Regan to show how sensitive she is to solutions that Lee's able-bodied self can't see.  Both the insistence of men and able-bodied people in power is questioned throughout A Quiet Place, and the results are always involving.

A Quiet Place also makes the case that we've become so engrossed in franchise thinking that this film is stronger by standing on its own.  It could have been part of the Cloverfield franchise and, while I've enjoyed each part, I'm much more content knowing that Krasinski and company decided this film needed to stand for itself.  I can picture what happens after just fine as women and the deaf are ready to lead the way forward.  Leave the victory of A Quiet Place alone, and let's start thinking of clearing the way for other stories to be told.

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A Quiet Place (2018)

Directed by John Krasinski.
Screenplay written by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski.
Starring Millicent Simmonds, John Krasinski, and Emily Blunt.

Posted by Andrew

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