Saturday 21 April 2018

Movie Review: A Quiet Place (2018)

A monster horror movie, A Quiet Place explores themes of survival and family dynamics under extreme pressure.

In the near future, exceptionally strong and fast alien monsters have ravaged Earth, leaving few survivors. Lee (John Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and three children survive on a remote farm and by rummaging in abandoned towns. They need to remain exceptionally quiet all the time, communicating by sign language as the monsters are known to be blind but have exceptional hearing and are attracted to kill by the faintest sound.

After a tragedy besets the family, Lee and Evelyn do their best to look after their deaf teenage daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and younger son Marcus (Noah Jupe). Lee is eager to teach Marcus survival skills, while Regan is going through a moody phase and a strained relationship with her father, although he is doing his best to develop a hearing aid for her. Meanwhile Evelyn is pregnant, and having to plan on giving birth and protecting a newborn without making a sound.

Directed by Krasinski, A Quiet Place is an exceptionally effective exercise in horror. The natural human condition of screaming when danger beckons is suppressed, and the smart screenplay (by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and Krasinski) features hardly any dialogue or human-made sounds of any kind. Survival depends on finding ways to exist silently, a challenge that proves remarkably difficult and involves resisting urges that start literally at the moment of birth.

The film reveals the family's daily routine, actions that are otherwise mundane but made vivid by having to be reinvented in silence. Lee and Evelyn share an intimate dance with music that only they can hear. Cooking involves no cutlery or noisy plates. The board game Monopoly is modified to feature no clacking sounds. What would be loud arguments and expressions of emotion are orchestrated in sign language.

And the domesticity is punctuated by short and sharp moments of pure terror. When mistakes are made and sounds emitted, the monsters pounce to kill in a hurry. Krasinski drops these moments into the first half of the film at regular intervals, reminders as to why there are so few humans left on Earth.

The film's underlying theme is the duress that accompanies the responsibilities of parenthood. The monsters represent whatever the danger is that parents need to protect their children from, and A Quiet Place distills the roles of Lee and Evelyn down to elemental guardians in a new kind of wilderness. Despite the external dangers, internal family dynamics are eternal and imperfect. Mistakes are made, blame is subconsciously assigned, unnecessary rules and restrictions are imposed but life must find a way go on. Evelyn negotiating labour in silence and under extreme hardship is a stunning sequence, viscerally encapsulating a mother's anxiety and the miracle of life's persistence.

Thought-provoking and terrifying, A Quiet Place is an alternative view of the end and the beginning cloaked in a shroud of tense silence.

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