Emily Blunt: Evelyn Abbott
John Krasinski: Lee Abbott
Millicent Simmons: Regan Abbott
Noah Jupe: Marcus Abbott
Cade Woodward: Beau Abbott
Leon Russom: Man in the Woods
Written by: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski
Directed by John Krasinski
Rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody images.
The quiet can be scary. Silence, for some, equates to solitude and peace and certainly a film titled A Quiet Place could suggest a story about a Thoreau-esque writer looking to find inner truth in the country. What if, though, silence were necessary for survival? What if you and your family were being stalked by creatures who hunted by sound? That is the premise of A Quiet Place, an unnerving exercise in horror and suspense.
The movie opens in a near future. Some kind of apocalyptic event has occurred and we follow a family rummaging for supplies in a deserted store. The youngest bebops around quietly as the others secure food, medicine, and other necessities. A title card reads "Day 89." The family wears no shoes and communicates in sign language. A couple of shots inform us that an alien invasion of some kind has occurred and an all-caps headline of "IT'S SOUND!" tells us what we need to know. Silence equates to survival. Something awful happens in that opening scene and then a new title card tells us it's now a year later. The family lives on a secluded farm nestled in a remote area. They grow their own food, hunt and fish, and live in the cellar, which has been retrofitted with sound-muffling materials. The family is still grieving. The mother is once again pregnant and due soon.
Director John Krasinski (who co-stars with wife Emily Blunt) makes excellent use of sound and silence to establish suspense and terror. This isn't just a clever gimmick, though. Imagine not being able to adequately release emotion after a tragedy. Imagine not being able to process what you're going through because you could attract the attention of a hungry monster. You know how in some family dramas two family members don't talk after a traumatic event? A Quiet Place adds a layer of context to that trope. The dad (a terrific performance from Krasinski) hasn't spoken much to his daughter after the tragedy. So, not only are we dealing with the necessity of silence for survival, we're watching a father emotionally shut off his daughter when she needs him most. An added element is the daughter's deafness. She is played exquisitely by Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf in real life. A scene plays out midway through the film involving Emily Blunt's character attempting to give birth in a bathtub while a monster is close by. The acting here is superb and I can't really describe it beyond that.
What I appreciated most about this movie was its cinematic storytelling. This was all showing, no telling. Many movies feel the need to give us volumes of exposition to explain the creatures and how they work. There would be extensive dialogue divulging various plans to stop the creatures. This is not that kind of movie. A Quiet Place is told through images and unspoken moments between characters. The majority of the dialogue is told through sign language and when there is spoken dialogue, it is used at just the right moment. I guess maybe the message here is there is a time to speak and at time to be quiet. We learn everything we need to know through camera work and editing.
A Quiet Place had the same impact on me as The Witch in 2016 and Get Out last year. Those films stuck with me in a way many films did not. I thought about them for days and what they meant. Again, I'm struck that a horror film has made such an impact on me. A Quiet Place is more than just a really effective monster picture (and is definitely that). It's a meditation on grief, love, sacrifice, communication, and that basic human desire we all have to be heard.