Movie Review: “A Quiet Place” (2018)

In its best moments, writer-director-executive producer-star John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” is not just a terrifying story of monsters who kill anything they hear, but the smaller story of a family just struggling to survive.  It is a movie concerned with day-to-day life and the changes involved, as it is offering up thrills.

The family at the center of the film—Lee (Krasinski); his wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt); daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds); and son, Marcus (Noah Jupe)—struggle with everything a family might struggle with today, but they have added to it the problems caused by the creatures, and it looks at the issues with seriousness and a delicate touch.  How can you be a teen without being able to yell at your parents, stomp away, and slam a few doors?  How can you be a kid and see all these great and wonderful toys around you but not be allowed to play with them because they may make noise?  How can you be a new parent, having a new baby, when that baby will scream?  Doing any of those things in the world of “A Quiet Place” easily means death and the movie explores the problems involved.

The proceedings then follow this family more than a year into the invasion as they struggle to not just survive against the monsters, but to navigate the necessarily redesigned human relationships around them.  Krasinski and company—the script is also from Bryan Woods & Scott Beck—make the audience wonder about the choices this family makes and the choices those watching would make in the same situation.

Does this reviewer question some of the apparently illogical decisions this family makes? Absolutely.  There are definite issues of logic to it all, but because the movie doesn’t spend time on how exactly humanity or the family arrived at this point and what their lives were like before, it’s difficult to declare them wrong.  They very well may have worked out answers to all those questions, those answers just don’t appear in the movie.  While having the questions swirl is somewhat disappointing, the script and execution is clever enough that those questions can be overlooked.

In terms of execution, one of the truly brilliant elements of the film is the sound design.  In a world where sound kills, the use of silence, music, voice, background noise, and everything else is incredibly important, and “A Quiet Place” is a towering achievement where that is concerned. It uses sound and the lack thereof to convey fear and love and terror and joy, all depending on what is taking place in any given moment.  One finds themselves sitting absolutely still, making no sound whatsoever, during certain scenes in the film, trying to be quiet for the characters, to keep them safe.

Lee and Evelyn’s daughter, Regan, is deaf and has a broken hearing device that, due to the world’s situation, cannot easily be fixed.  The movie makes incredible use of her circumstances, regularly giving us her perception of what is taking place, which is rather nerve-wracking in a situation where the ability to hear a monster coming and the noise one is making is incredibly important.

At the same time, Lee and Evelyn’s ability to communicate with Regan before the attack has, presumably, put them in a better situation to survive.  Sign language is hugely relevant in “A Quiet Place,” with virtually all of the spoken dialogue at a whisper or lower and being accompanied by sign language.  The movie provides subtitles all along the way, but one doesn’t always need them to get the point of the story.

Krasinski may still be early in his directing career, but he handles the duties here with skill. Scares are wonderfully built up, as are the familial relationships.  Once or twice the foreshadowing is a little too overt, but the moments are quickly forgotten.

In the end, what stays with the audience for the film is less the horror than the love and horror of the familial relationships.  Krasinski has crafted a tale with minimal dialogue and maximal scares, this last due to the fact that he makes the audience a part of the relationships. Those watching the screen form a bond with this family and it is beautiful and terrible.

four and a half stars

photo credit: Paramount Pictures

 

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