Friday, May 04, 2018

'A Quiet Place' Is a Resoundingly Poignant Family Drama Within a Masterful, Intense Thriller

Imagine a world where making a sound could mean instant death.  For human civilization has fallen and monsters from outer space are roaming around.  These terrifying, ferocious creatures can’t see.  But they have very sensitive hearing.  And in just seconds, they will blitz toward the origin of the sound and viciously tear it/him/her up.  Hence, sign language has become the exclusive means of communication.  Your laughter and cry must be done in mute, as if you’re a mime; and when in pain, you must catch yourself and stifle your scream.  When you play monopoly you have to roll the dice on the carpet.  To avoid making squeaks when walking on the wooden floor, your mark the parts you can step on; and it is imperative to pour sand first on the path that you tread on outdoors so that your footsteps are muffled.

Such is the post-apocalyptic setting of A Quiet Place, the brilliant horror film directed and co-written by John Krasinski.  He also plays the lead character, Lee Abbott, and his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, plays the wife, Evelyn Abbott.  The movie follows them, along with their children, as they labor on to get through each day while murderous alien monsters lurk nearby.
A Quiet Place is not exactly a “horror” film.  It’s more of a thriller.  There’s minimal gore, and the monsters aren’t that unsettling (Alien’s Xenomorphs are actually more frightening).   Regardless, there are some solid scares to be had.  And the abundance of silence, as brought by its premise, only intensifies the sense of dread and suspense.  This, of course, factors into making its storytelling thoroughly gripping.

But what makes us really invested into the plot is the fact that we totally get to empathize with the central characters: the Abbot family (the opening moments excellently ensure this).

How the Abbott family goes on with their lives reminds me of Swiss Family Robinson (the titular family getting shipwrecked and stranded in an island, where they build a home) and The Little House on the Prairie books (the Ingalls family traveling to the American frontier to settle on a homestead).  Yes, their situation is significantly grimmer, but the dynamics involved are quite similar:  an isolated nuclear family working together to retain a normal familial life, despite the unknowns and perils present in their new environment.  It’s in such a scenario where, I think, the positional – father, mother, children – and gender-specific roles inherent in a family are most beautifully explored.
In other words, A Quiet Place is so resonating because it boils down to being a movie about family.

The family, after all, is the most basic unit of society.  It is where vital values necessary for a working, flourishing society are first learned.  And it is also where these same values are manifested at their most genuine.  So in the depressing world of this movie – in which human civilization has crumbled and getting killed by monsters is a daily possibility – there’s something touching and uplifting about a family doing the best as it can to remain true to the essence and functions of being a family.  It’s through this lens where the human spirit’s resolve to live – not just to merely survive, but to live – is at its most admirable.

In relation to this, the apparent Christian overtones in this movie are much appreciated.   Now, their inclusion does not need to be intentional in Krasinski’s part.  However, when family is depicted at its most traditional and purest, facets of the Christian worldview are going to be inevitably reflected.  And, again, this film is essentially about family – most notably, the profound love of parents for their children.  Stemming out of this, Christian-relevant themes of sacrifice, manhood/fatherhood, and womanhood/motherhood are poignantly demonstrated.
A Quiet Place is basically this year’s Get Out – a critically and financially successful horror movie directed and written by a comedian.  However, though I like Get Out, I also think it’s overrated.  On the other hand, A Quiet Place is a masterpiece.  Thus, I hope it also gets the same awards love that Get Out had.

For me, A Quiet Place is a perfect movie.  Now, if you choose to analyze the film, I’m sure you’ll find some problems to nitpick (I myself have this big question: why is there electricity when power plants and generators make so much noise?).  But what I mean by “perfect” is that, even with whatever flaws or plot holes intact, it has succeeded in leaving the impression of being perfect as it is from start to finish (btw, how the movie ends itself is pretty awesome).  It has a perfectly meaningful impact.

And that’s why it’s my most favorite movie of 2018 so far.

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