These are the last words signed by John Krasinski's character (Lee Abbott) in his directorial debut, A Quiet Place (2018). The audience is hit with the emotional core of the whole film, a father confessing his love for his daughter before he sacrifices himself for her life. His courageous decision answers the question that the film poses from the beginning: "How far are parents willing to go to save their children?" We realize that the father, even after witnessing his daughter getting her brother killed, still loves her, and would trade his own life for hers.
Although it's a theme that's powerful, it's also shallow, underdeveloped, and used way too many times before. Krasinski has stated several times the film was about family, not horror, and yet he still does not expand on his theme more than: "A parent would kill themself for their children." Even if it may resonate with some audience members, it's silenced in their vast collection of scenes they've seen where a person sacrifices themself for a loved one.
But A Quiet Place is far from unoriginal. The premise is, quite simply, one of the greatest horror ideas I've ever heard of. The complete absence of sound creates suspense by itself, where even the slightest sound is noticed by the viewer. Thus, Krasinski possessed total control of the audience, able to manipulate what the audience predicts or doesn't. He can tell us when to be scared, when to be sad, when to look, or when to listen. Notice how Krasinski tells us a monster is near; he doesn't let us see it, but rather lets us hear noises of it thundering on the floor above them.
Unfortunately, the score subtracted from the premise. During too many scenes was the music overpowering and unnecessary. Joel and Ethan Coen executed the score perfectly in their masterpiece, No Country for Old Men (2007). How? They didn't use one. It would've been interesting if A Quiet Place featured no music, but it's clear the score should've at least been eased.
The atmosphere wasn't established well either. For the first half, it was ambiguous whether or not the family is alone, which is altogether unnecessary. As the audience, we adapt to an environment by learning about it, isolated or populous. When this information is withheld, we cannot fully immerse into a situation. After we encounter the suicidal old man, we realize they aren't alone, forcing us to readapt to the environment.
One way of correcting this flaw was setting the film in a suburb where a neighborhood of families reside, thus also allowing additional creative possibilities. For instance, Krasinski could have the families interact and communicate, and we can see how each family evolves. Since not every family is identical, the camera can vary points of view and contrast the different lives of each family. Some families may be more sympathetic than others. Some families may be crueler than others. Maybe a father of another family was faced with the same choice Krasinski's character had; sacrificing himself for his child, or to watch his child die. And maybe he chooses the latter. Screenwriters would address this as an "Ironic Controlling Idea", presenting the positives and negatives of an issue. This would also add depth to the theme, and therefore patching the film's first flaw.
Technically, A Quiet Place is magnificent. The performances are excellent, most notably by the young actress Millicent Simmonds. She plays the deaf daughter (Regan Abbott), and as she is deaf in real life, fits the role perfectly. She's somewhat enigmatic, but also warm hearted-so when her father confesses he loved her all along, her personality adds to the emotional punch. John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are also married with two children in real life, which explains such honest performances. There's a beautiful scene in the film featuring their genuine emotions, where they slowly dance away to Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" in their basement. Despite the horror surrounding them, Emily (Evelyn Abbott) tenderly lends him one of her earbuds so they could temporarily exist in a world together with sound.
Krasinski is a master at small touches. Not only does Evelyn's pregnancy create yet another element of suspense to the film, but the birth also serves as a metaphor for the regeneration of the family. When Evelyn leaves a nail at the end of the basement stairs, Krasinski further builds suspense by cutting to a close up of it. All hell breaks loose when Evelyn's water breaks and she steps on the nail, reassuring both anticipations. She then cleverly escapes upstairs by deflecting the monster with a timer, and lies in a bathtub to deliver the baby. Notice the composition of a superb shot where she lies in the bathtub on the left of the screen, with the staircase just to her right. As we focus on her suffering, we spot the monster's hand slowly crawl up the staircase next to her. Masterful cinematography, direction, and acting, all in one shot. Finally, after the birth, the nail at the bottom of the basement stairs is never mentioned again. We don't know if anyone took it out, but we suspect it's still there. And every time a family member walks down those stairs, we hold our breath in anticipation. Krasinski holds the shot a little while longer to tease us, but no one ever steps on it. After briefly satisfying our expectations, Krasinski manipulates us once again. From setup to aftermath, the bathtub scene is immaculate.
It reminds me of a quote the legendary Alfred Hitchcock once said: "I enjoy playing the audience like a piano." That is, of course, because Hitchcock was the "master of suspense", and his manipulation techniques are just incredible-but Krasinski is not far off. A Quiet Place is not a masterpiece-nor is it anywhere near it, but Krasinski is obviously trying. He's established himself as an up and rising talent, and we should encourage more directors like him. We should encourage the Andersons and Tarantinos, the Cuarons and Linklaters, the Nolans and Chazelles. After all, who are we if we can't protect them?
Review by imew from the Internet Movie Database.