With its sparse dialogue, high stakes, and relentless tension, A Quiet Place is a thriller of the highest order. But it also portrays a moving and engaging picture of the family, one that values life, even in a fallen world of the most extreme kind.
John Krasinski’s surprise hit film is quite simple. The story of a family surviving in a world with monsters that attack sound, it’s a visceral turn for the comedian-turned-horror-director. From a filmmaking perspective, there’s little the film doesn’t get right. Krasinski sets the stakes high right out of the gate and keeps the tension maxed out for the remainder of the film. The tension, as well as the horror elements, are directly in service of character and theme, making the film more about connecting with these people than a game of “who survives to the end?”
That’s clear from what fills the time between tense encounters with the film’s monsters. The film doesn’t spend much time at all on schemes of overcoming the monsters or speculations on where they came from and what they want. Instead, these moments are spent with the family – siblings playing Monopoly, a husband and wife dancing with headphones, a father trying to help his deaf daughter hear. Despite the fact that the characters’ names are never spoken aloud, the direction and script communicate a great deal of affection for these characters, and their humanity is especially impactful.
What’s also impactful is the family dynamic that our characters create. Krasinski’s father shows the role of a healthy masculinity, a man who is the leader and protector of his family, but also teaches his children and places himself in harm’s way for them. Emily Blunt’s mother (real-life wife to John Krasinski) shows a Christlike self-sacrificial nature as well, albeit in different ways that her husband. She, too, teaches her children (homeschooling *is* the only option at this point), but also nurtures, protects, and, when called on, also defends her family with all of her husband’s tenacity. Both of these parents display a fierce self-sacrificial love for their family, even if at times in flawed, fallen ways.
But more than just the self-sacrificial love of the parents for their children that are already born, the film is also life-affirming in other ways. They go above and beyond to prepare to give birth to a new child, and preparations include creating a soundproof box for the baby, complete with an oxygen mask to keep the monsters from being drawn to it. Despite the horrid circumstances this family finds themselves in, the family seems to be saying that life is still worth living, and still worth giving. This is a great reminder in a culture that increasingly seeks to cast off children as an inconvenience, and physically imperfect children as a curse.
I don’t want to stress the worldview aspects at the expense of the film as art. As a film in its own right, A Quiet Place has earned its praise. Its unrelenting tension, fully fleshed characters, and effective jump scares combine to make it a very memorable horror/thriller flick. But the fact that it is so effective as a film, and also diving into these serious themes of life, love, and family, makes it a complete package that is compelling, moving, and engaging. Of all the films that I’ve seen so far this year, I’ve yet to say any is a “must see”; but I’m saying it about this one.