If you have read the title of this review and raised your eyebrows, don’t get me wrong: I found the experience of watching A Quiet Place in an almost silent cinema incredibly frightening and tense. From the bright red and black poster to a trailer that focuses in on the bloodiest and most desperate moments of the film, the marketing definitely wants you to know that this is a film that will scare you. However, having gone into the cinema to see the film with my boyfriend and two friends, preparing myself for a gory jump scare fest, I was apparently mistaken. Instead, we were presented with a clever, tense, family-based drama that carefully documents the survival of 4 people during a bizarre apocalypse. This was not unwelcome, especially after experiencing basically the opposite scenario with Ghost Stories a couple weeks prior.
The opening ten minutes of this film is a masterclass in storytelling. With almost no dialogue, cinematographer Charlotte Brus Christensen manages to convey the family dynamic, the fact that they can’t make any noise, and the consequences if they make a sound (a mysterious creature bolting into the frame and killing them). Whether she is using shallow focus to draw the audience’s attention to newspapers in the street or subtle zooms to express the fears of the characters, the cinematography is one of the best storytelling devices of the film. Director John Krasinski also establishes the almost realist aesthetic of the movie, which grounds the somewhat outlandish plot and allows you to relate to the struggles of the family even further. From the natural colour palette of greens and browns to the variation in lighting and amplified diegetic sound, he avoids the typical dark, cold look of most horror films. However, his subversion of the warm, lived in family home acting as a place of danger definitely adds to the element of terror via familiarity.
Although every performance in the film is fantastic, for me Emily Blunt was the clear standout. Using only her facial expressions and body language, she naturalistically manages to express emotions from grief to romantic longing to determination to pain to the intense protective quality over her children that runs through her whole performance in the film. Although moments from the trailer mostly show her character in moments of pain, a scene that stood out to me was when she was teaching her son maths, the subtle affection she shows him negating the need for conversation. When the characters do communicate, the use of ASL (American Sign Language) and the casting of deaf actress Millicent Simmonds was a brilliant way of incorporating representation into the film, especially as the condition is usually used as a weakness in cinema as opposed to a strength.
The only grievances I had with the film were essentially the other side of the coin to the realist aesthetic; upon coming out of the cinema, all I and the group I was with could discuss were the various plot holes and issues that remained unexplained. These ranged from the blatant (‘why didn’t they just live closer to the waterfall to muffle the sound they made?’) to the slightly less so (‘so…can they fart or would the monsters hear?’). However, they only mildly affected my enjoyment of the film, and these criticisms are inevitable for any horror/science fiction film that goes to such lengths to maintain realism. After all, A Quiet Place also featured characters constantly walking around barefoot and animals immediately being killed for gently squeaking.
So to anyone that can deal with the intensity of the tension that the premise creates, I highly recommend this movie, especially in the cinema for the full experience.