Note: spoilers abound.
I wanted to like A Quiet Place. The concept is brilliant and worthy of being liked. Which is why I was reluctant to see it—I wanted to keep the idea alive in my mind, unspoiled by average execution. But everyone I talked to had nothing but positive things to say, and the internet stood by it almost unanimously. One guy even said it made him want to be a better dad. So I caved.
It was better in my imagination.
The film revolves around a single family of five—dad, mom, sister, two brothers—who must live in absolute silence to avoid getting eaten by a monster with no eyes and big ears. Like I said, brilliant concept. Except, the monster looks like it stepped out of Stranger Things. And how is the sister clueless enough as to give her brother the space shuttle (very different from a rocket, people) even after her dad explains the danger a noise-making toy puts them in?
Nor is the monster the only thing that appears to have been borrowed from Stranger Things. What’s up with the lights strung up everywhere? What’s the point of the white ones? Is it only to create a contrast for the red ones that signal danger? How is the electricity that powers the outdoor lights and security system generated? Why were there lightbulbs outside, but the underground bunker was lit by candles? Should we worry about death by smoke inhalation? Sorry for all the questions, but there are more where those came from.
As expected, there is very little dialogue. The family communicates by American Sign Language, and their conversations are translated into subtitles for the viewer. Every once in a while the characters mouth the words they’re signing, and there’s a brief spoken father-son heart-to-heart by a waterfall. Otherwise, the story is carried along by the acting—the one place where this film does shine. Every actor delivers a solid, well-rounded performance that didn’t leave me wishing for more in the character development department.
But where this film should have swelled—and where it fell woefully flat—was in the overall sound design and score. The daughter is deaf (an interesting twist for a plot where talking is pretty much pointless) and whenever the camera swings to her everything falls silent, bringing the viewer into her world, where even corn stalks don’t rustle in the wind. Aside from these moments, I left the theater thinking there had been entirely too much noise for a film with “quiet” in the title.
As if John Krasinski wasn’t sure his audience could survive an hour and a half in the world he’d subjected his characters too for almost 500 days, an overbearing score dominated the entire film. The music prompted me when to jump in my seat and clued me in to when I was supposed to feel a sense of foreboding or imminent danger. I experienced the absolute silence the daughter lived in; I wanted to be able to experience the same for the other characters, to only hear what they heard, sense what they sensed, and react to what they reacted to for the same reasons they reacted. But the sound got in the way.
Ultimately, the father sacrifices himself for his children in an anticipated, but still touching, scene. The daughter discovers the monsters’ weakness (a certain frequency generated by her cochlear implant), and in an anti-climactic final shot, the mother pumps a shotgun, preparing for a final showdown.
There’s a lot that’s left unanswered at the end.
- Why didn’t the mom just make two trips for the laundry instead of carrying it all at once?
- How many times had they traipsed up and down the stairs without getting skewered by that nail?
- Bloody footprints leading to the mom’s whereabouts seem to be the only point to the whole nail debacle (no pun intended). Where are the lasting repercussions to a foot that got speared by an inch and a half of steel?
- Where is the eyebrow-singeing fireball that results from pouring lighter fluid on an open flame?
- If they could soundproof that little nursery room, why couldn’t they soundproof the entire bunker and live happily ever after?
- Was getting pregnant really the smartest idea, given the circumstances? How did they expect to raise a baby in total silence?
- Speaking of the baby, why didn’t the mom just pop that adorable not-newborn on her breast to keep him quiet?
- Are the four remaining family members really the only people still alive in the entire world? If they are, isn’t the world going to die out in a few years anyway, because repopulating it would be, well, nasty?
It’s sad that what could have been a truly excellent film dug itself into too many plot holes to count, and the few elements that could have been excellent were obscured by excessive noise.
When all is said (signed?) and done, I’d give A Quiet Place an average rating of five out of ten frames.