A Quiet Place, or the Unbearable Blessing of Parenthood

AQuietPlaceCoverScary movies are not our favorite, but last weekend, Jodi, Gabe and I finally watched A Quiet Place, the unexpected, critically acclaimed monster/thriller from director John Krasinski (best know as quick-witted paper salesman Jim Halpert on the U.S. version of The Office TV series). Rated PG-13, the movie stars Krasinski and his real-life wife Emily Blunt (of Thorp favorites The Adjustment Bureau, Looper and Mary Poppins Returns) as a husband and wife trying to protect their children in a frightful world in which the sounds of day-to-day life are deadly.

Most horror movies and thrillers (honestly, most movies overall) are too violent, profane, explicit and/or gory to garner my attention, but the trailer for this one caught my eye, followed by a number of positive reviews, including this one (with spoilers; don’t read past the first paragraph if you want to view it fresh!) by Bishop Robert Barron in which he called A Quiet Place “the most unexpectedly religious film of the year.” Finally, my son Brendan and his fiance Becky recommended it to us, and it all became too much: It had to be seen.

Hardcore horror fans may not consider this a horror movie, but it is tense and suspenseful from the opening scenes, with sympathetic characters and real stakes, hope and despair, striking beauty and stark terror. It is also an adult’s movie in many ways—not an “adult movie” in the euphemistic sense of a “gentlemen’s club,” but a movie that reaches mature viewers (spouses, parents and grandparents) probably moreso than younger people.

To me, the reason for this appeal to older viewers is also what makes the movie outstanding. When was the last time you saw a film in which spouses were exclusively in love with, and supportive of, each other and devoted to the physical, spiritual and intellectual needs of their children above their own desires? When did you last see a resourceful, intelligent father stretching his mind, muscles and nerves to care and provide for his family? A mother completely feminine and comfortable in her “traditional gender roles,” and at the same time intelligent and empowered, incredibly tough and fiercely protective of those she loves?

In the end, I don’t see A Quiet Place as a horror movie as much as a movie about the unbearable blessing of parenthood, summed up in a single scene roughly midway through the film’s lean 90-minute run. Blunt’s character has just given birth, screaming silently under the most harrowing of circumstances, and she and her husband have secured her and her infant as best they can where the creatures outside cannot hear. But their older children are missing outside.  “Who are we,” she says to her husband, “if we can’t protect them? You have to protect them. Promise me you will protect them.”

Krasinski’s face shows all the fears of fatherhood, distilled into a single look. In this broken world, can anyone reasonably make such a promise? Of course not.

But will we make that promise? Every. Single. Time.

And none of the above even mentions great performances from the actors playing the children in this movie, the remarkable use of sign language and setting to convey character and plot without words, and as Bishop Barron shares in his review, the simple, monastic beauty of ordinary life in this film. It really is outstanding!

There is little objectionable content, aside from the constant terror of creatures that kill any living thing they can hear, a single dead body, a couple offscreen deaths, and a couple instances of brief, bloody violence. The monsters are appropriately hideous, the gore is minimal, and the story’s resolution left us cheering.

A couple of details bothered me in retrospect, but I never would have noticed them had I not spent a solid two days thinking about it. That, in itself, is a great recommendation.

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