MOVIE REVIEW: A Quiet Passion

Drama based on the life of American Poet Emily Dickinson.  Charting her life from outsider at school to the hermit like spinster who ended her life in the family home due to a Kidney disease.

To be honest with you I don’t know anything about Emily Dickinson, I don’t know one of her poems, I didn’t even know that she was American.  My ignorance aside though very little has changed by watching this film.  That’s my biggest problem with this piece, it should have lighted a fire under my considerable backside to go out and find out more about Ms. Dickinson, instead the glaring problems with the production just kept banging in my head over and over again.

The film shows Emily as the headstrong family loving girl, who will not bow to the pressure of the religious people who educated and tried to restrain the rights of women back in the 19th Century.  When she returns home from school to her family life, with her Brother, Sister, Mother, and Father she decides to devote her life to her poetry.  We follow her life through the ups and downs of her life until her early death.

Big problems in this film take away from what is basically a well scripted period drama, funny and clever, dramatic and tear jerking at times, it’s flaws run through it like a poison through your veins.  The good points are that the final third of the film, where the isolation and changing times cause more anguish for Emily than her failing health.  That sounds strange, that this terrible time for her is basically the most dramatic and best acted part of the film.  I wanted so much to enjoy this film, a good period drama is like the steady rock of drama.  It’s hard to perfect, hard to do a good one, and easy to mess up.  But when you get it right it’s a great thing to watch, the mix of drama and comedy, the performances and the costumes all add up to something nice.  

Cynthia Nixon plays Emily for the most part of the film, and when she’s playing the young, that is 20 to 30’s Emily, there is something desperately wrong with her face, I think, and can’t be sure about this, but I think it was temporary botox injections that smooth out the age of the 50 something actress to make her look younger.  The huge distraction of this choice, rather than hire a younger performer is that there is a constant look of shock on her face during this entire period of her life.  Which is a lot of the film.  There are times I thought I was looking at a horror film creation when she was smiling.

A lot of you know I like to joke and to poke fun at things, including myself, but I don’t like poking fun of actors and films, no matter how they are done.  A Quiet Passion could have been this years Love and Friendship, but strange choices in performers and the quality of some of the acting, along with production values that are just terrible, brought this down from a five to a three, and I think for myself that a three is being more generous than I usually am.  For fans of the poet, and biographical films, I guess there is plenty to enjoy, but for me the problems outweigh the goodness within.

Director: Terence Davies
Writer: Terence Davies
Stars: Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle, Duncan Duff

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