I don’t have children, so I have to imagine the new film A Quiet Place is far more frightening for a parent than it could hope to be for someone like me. It’s probably more impactful, too.
In A Quiet Place, most of the world has been eradicated. A young family of survivors has to live as silently as possible to avoid the blind, super-hearing creatures who prey upon anything making a sound. Danger is everywhere. The family can’t escape these bulletproof nightmares.
So the family perseveres by creating strict, logical rules. They communicate with lights and sign language. They walk barefoot. They make soundproof trails and play board games with cloth materials. The message is quiet, but it’s clear. To parents in any context, the world is a scary place, and every family has a set of idiosyncratic methods for raising their children. In this case, it’s playing a high-stakes version of “the quiet game.”
Which is why A Quiet Place can be just as scary for adults who aren’t parents. Because we were kids once, generally raised by someone looking out for us and making rules based on their own fear and paranoia. The tension of the movie certainly exists in hoping these monsters don’t catch the characters onscreen, but the heart of the film is in whether or not the parents will succeed in protecting their children.
On its own, these obvious parallels could be counted as script flourishes. By that, I mean that some movies insert themes and ideas in the plainest of ways. This is where you’ll hear some moviegoers go in and call a film “preachy,” because the film talks at them. A Quiet Place avoids this pitfall because the truths about parenthood conveyed through the script come through in the intensity of the film. It all works together to make a case for why parents in real life are so afraid for their children. Its message doesn’t just ring true, it reminds us of a truth we already knew and maybe took for granted.
This is why I would liken A Quiet Place more to something made by Steven Spielberg than I would a Blumhouse Production or similar horror film from A24. Not only because this film was clearly inspired by the unrelenting tension of Jurassic Park (complete with several direct homages to the 1993 film), but also in how it frames the children-adult relationship as one needing improvement on both sides. How kids can become adults, and how adults can help them get there.
This is the kind of storytelling that made Spielberg a household name, and it could garner similar goodwill for director John Krasinski, still early in his filmmaking career but already a recognizable face thanks to his acting stints in The Office and several high-profile films over the last decade. His real-life wife, Emily Blunt, worked alongside him with A Quiet Place, driving the point even further to say there’s passion behind this passion project.
If you can understand the couple at the helm of A Quiet Place, you’ll hopefully understand one of the most divisive plot developments surely to cause endless debate between fans and haters of the film. Why have children in the first place? In this context, especially, Emily Blunt’s character willfully becomes pregnant years into their harsh environment. I’m confident I know the answer, based on direct cues the film communicates on how these parents want to cope with their new reality, however dangerous.
But for some moviegoers, this will be too contentious, too alarming, and perhaps too convoluted a choice for “intelligent parents” to make, thus they won’t accept the film’s premise on its face. But that is precisely why I find A Quiet Place more useful, bold, and insightful than it bargains for.