For a brief moment after my showing of A Quiet Place began, I contemplated leaving the theater, not because it was too scary or awful. Rather, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional gut punch or waves of tears welling up in my eyes — all I wanted was to run home and hug my family. In our day to day lives of “pick up” this or “put away” that, the homework queries and sibling squabbles nestled in between the mindless *insert app/device here*, it’s all too easy to get stuck in life’s nitpickings. Within the opening minutes of John Krasinki’s solemn contemplation, every parent is forced into their own reflections on wasted time, and just what we’d do to protect our own.
It’s no spoiler to say there are aliens (terrifyingly cool) on Earth, or quick consequence for minor mistakes. The Quiet Place trailers made clear that creepy creatures are roaming the countryside, and you’d be hard pressed to find a movie of this genre without required sacrifices on rapid display — after all, what’s a horror movie without the demonstrations of why its audience should be scared? Trailer or no, total focus on Abbot family is immediate and with nearly no other people around, there’s nothing to do but likewise sink into the dreadful reality Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) face.
The stunning simplicity of this new world is stunningly captured by Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s (Submarino, The Hunt, Molly’s Game) expert cinematography (the scenes with the red danger lights all aglow beautifully haunt me) is matched only by Marco Beltrami’s judicious soundtrack ebbing and flowing between silent spaces, till a violin’s high-pitched screeching, or a growling bass sound alarm. Padding barefoot children and adults alike, it’s hard not to imagine our own careful steps through a house, a pharmacy, by the railroad tracks and one by one, down perilous, creaky stairs. Every breath is held alongside these quickly familiar characters — teenaged Regan (Millicent Simmonds — herself a deaf actress who aided and advised the cast), tween Marcus (Noah Jupe), and young Beau (Cade Woodward); every mother will wonder how to keep a newborn silent. (Evelyn’s at-first horrifying, then quickly admired method is rather genius.) Speaking of, the only tiny quibble here is a motherly observation; **Minor Spoiler** After Evelyn’s bag of clothes gets caught on that nail, she leaves it without so much as a backward glance — something no mother would do, despite the producers’ wanting to mess with the audience — and as Chekhov demands, it later comes into play. I also reject the “… it would be too noisy to remove the nail defense, because a) careful pliers quietly pull, and b) the side of a hammer can be used to just push the protruding piece down into the wood of the stair. Chekhov’s nail aside, **End Minor Spoiler** the rest of the story plays out to panicked perfection.
As Evelyn wonders to her husband, new baby sheltered beside them, the other children out on their own, “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” a crushing acknowledgement passes over Lee’s grizzled face. Whether parent or kid, the Abbots’ vulnerability transfers; we remember those feelings of childhood, of believing moms and dads were heroes who could always keep us safe from monsters of most any kind. As fathers and mothers (or caretakers) ourselves, we’re often coming to the realization of just how little control over that we actually have, and it is in the dual perspective of this family’s emotional transference that our fears and frailties quickly take hold. Through the small group of nuanced, affecting actors — Simmonds and Jupe are effortlessly heartfelt; real-life couple and parents Blunt and Krasinski are flawless — we are all simultaneously emotionally connected to the Abbots and to our own families. As Evelyn and Lee navigate the depths of their abilities to safeguard their children, the kids discover strength in themselves and their own bonds. And in the quiet spaces of familial kinship, fear is pushed aside and replaced by another unexpected alien form: the runaway tear that rolled down a cheek or two.
A Quiet Place is written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, and is currently in theaters.