Theatrical release poster
by Peter J. O’Connell
A Quiet Place. Released: April 2018. Runtime: 90 mins. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror and some bloody images.
Triggered by events in Mexico, violent aliens, hostile even to the way Americans speak, are tasking over the U.S. In the heartland a pro-life, gun-owning, Christian family—strong, caring father; warm, supportive mother; several plucky kids, one named Regan—hope to survive, defeat the aliens, and make America safe again. Such is the premise of A QuietPlace, directed and co-written by and co-starring John Krasinski. A parable, perhaps inadvertent, of the time of Trump from an unlikely source, Hollywood?
Well, before the film is such a parable—if it is—it’s a horror/sci-fi movie. The aliens are yucky space aliens, a la (yes) Alien, the 1979 classic. A briefly seen newspaper headline establishes that they came to Earth as a result of a meteor’s crash into Mexico. What distinguishes these monstrous creatures, however, is the fact that they are ultra-sensitive to sound and will show up with great alacrity to tear apart any humans whom they hear talking or otherwise making noise. Thus, silence is not just “golden” but absolutely necessary.
And it is absolute silence that Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) and his wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), enforce on themselves and their children as they seek to survive on their farm. There is almost a cloistered, monastic (Abbott, hmmm . . .) quality to their lives. They are aided in their efforts by the fact that one of their children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), a teenage girl, has a disability that can be transformed into a survival skill. Regan is deaf and communicates by American Sign Language, which, of course, Lee and Evelyn and younger child, Marcus (Noah Jupe), have all learned. (Simmonds, a fine young actress, is actually deaf in real life. And the ASL is subtitled on the screen.)
Unfortunately, however, Regan has become restive and somewhat rebellious since the horrific killing of her youngest brother, Beau (Cade Woodward), by the aliens. Regan believes that her father blames her for certain actions that brought the aliens to Beau. Though profoundly saddened by Beau’s death, Lee does not actually blame Regan and in a soundproofed room tinkers constantly with electrical equipment in an effort to communicate with other humans and devise devices that might help Regan to hear.
Aside from Regan’s discontent, the family is holding together fairly well despite the dangers around them. Holding hands, they pray (silently) before meals. Lee takes Marcus on that classic father-son bonding experience, a fishing trip. Evelyn assures the children: “Your father will protect you. Your father will always protect you.”
Lee and Evelyn even have decided to have another child. While Lee, Marcus, and Regan are all away from the house, Evelyn gives birth, attracting an alien that stalks the mother and her newborn. The suspense now becomes wrenching.
Will Lee actually be able to protect the family? Will Regan and Marcus be able to get out of an unusual, as it were, “trap” that they have fallen into? Will Regan make some discoveries of vital importance? Will Evelyn be able to find a way to wield her shotgun effectively against the aliens?
It hardly need be said that the combination of breatholding suspense and virtual absence of spoken dialogue creates a situation in the theatre where one can “hear a pin drop.” The theatre itself becomes a “quiet place.” Krasinski’s direction is as solid as his performance in his parental role, which is matched by that of Blunt, his wife in real life and mother of their two children.
Perhaps there is a political parable deep in the film, but for Krasinski a parable of parenthood is more to the fore. He has been quoted as saying: “The scares are secondary to how powerful this could be as an allegory or metaphor for parenthood. To me, this is all about parenthood.” And A Quiet Placeis powerful indeed.