The stately rhythms of the dialogue — drawn out by the particulars of Davies’ blocking, framing and editing — become a kind of music. The effect is bewildering at first, then absorbing, then transfixing. Its purpose, in line with the loftiest ideals of poetry itself, is to clear the mind and stir the soul.
This is not a movie for everyone. It is not a piece of entertainment. It is not a piece of consolation. But it is an honest assessment of the life of one of our greatest poets. It is beautifully made, photographed, and brilliantly acted and directed. Yes, there is too much Wildian aphoristic repartee. Yes, it is unsparing; but it is also compassionate, feeling, and true. So if beauty is truth, and you are looking for both, this is your film. But if you don't like whole sentences, and long for flaming action, and don't want an uncensored vision of what life is, or what a life can be, stay away.
Finally a film which gives Emily **** her due. I've read reviews which complain that there are inaccuracies in the telling here but I've read several biographies and books about her poetry and I've read all 1,700 + poems and there are more unknowns about her life and work than knowns. The film is beautifully shot and all of the actors, (especially Cynthia Nixon) are incredible. This one I will own as soon as it is released as a DVD. See it in the theater if it is possible.
Director Terence Davies dispenses of any gaudy romantic trappings and makes something much more beautiful in A Quiet Passion, a delicate and measured drama that plumbs the depths of the poet’s strange heart and the agony of her intelligence.
[Davies'] most mannered and least fulfilling work to date, A Quiet Passion boasts meticulous craft and ornate verbiage in abundance, but confines Cynthia Nixon’s melancholia-stricken performance as arguably America’s greatest poet in an emotional straitjacket of variously arch storytelling tones.
A riveting film that succeeds brilliantly in recreating the life and times of Emily **** and her family – and linking it to her poetry. While creating a film that is both very witty and incredibly sad, the director elaborates on what we know of **** life and we feel as if we are living with her family and friends, partly through fact and partly through surmise. Although most of the film takes place in the **** family home, the actors create a larger world (that includes the Civil War) and are totally convincing. If you love **** poetry as I do, this is a “must see” film. Cynthia Nixon is astonishing.
Distance, verbose, and complex, A Quiet Passion is the cinematic version of its subject's poetry. Elusive in definition due to both its complexity and a to-the-grave reliance upon a mental thesaurus, A Quiet Passion is a film that actively rejects audience understanding in the name of honoring the brilliance of its protagonist. However, by never letting us in to understand her plight - one certainly driven out typical artist's plight, in which their work is never appreciated during their own life, to the point that they wonder if their life's passion was worthwhile or not - from her point of view, A Quiet Passion winds up being far too subtle and lacking in clarity with regard to how one should feel about Emily **** (Cynthia Nixon) at the end of the film. On one hand, she is a brilliant writer, even if well beyond my own comprehension. Yet, on the other hand, she was certainly quite self-absorbed and assured that she was better than those around her, even if their supposed faults were also her own. By the end, A Quiet Passion is a handsomely crafted film that simply lacks enough clarity and comprehensibility to truly become an excellent film.
Verbosely written with the script relying heavily upon a bevy of SAT words, A Quiet Passion borders on pretension in how it consistently over-complicates its story with its reliance upon complex language. At times, the film can lose track of even itself with how many words it tries to pull out of the thesaurus, all in the name of communicating the extensive vocabulary possessed by ****. Fortunately, Cynthia Nixon often brings this back to Earth in a terrific performance. Displaying **** sharp, if dry, wit and ability to tear down on an opponent in verbal combat, the film's writing uses the dictionary quite nicely in those moments, but can otherwise force the rest of the film into being quite the slog. No matter how hard I tried to understand it all, the film always seemed to be attempting to become more-and-more complicated to the detriment of the overall product. It defied understanding and actively sought to complicate its rather straight-forward adherence to biopic formula.
This adherence to biopic formula is further demonstrated in the film's brevity. Issues arise and quickly fall into the backdrop in the name of telling her entire story. Scenes of the aunt with the family play in isolation, the Civil War is thrown in with mention of various battles and their casualties, the parents come and go, Emily's illness is hinted at and then results in her death, but it never really all comes together into a cohesive product. It is quite pleasant to watch with how exquisitely shot it all is, but it feels more like a highlight reel of **** life than an honest attempt to teach us about her and her work. Compared to other recent biopics such as Jackie which pick a point in time or two to base its storytelling around and, as a result, are given the space to develop its central character and create a base level of understanding that person and their life as a whole, A Quiet Passion never really captures ****. It just tosses in moments from her life with Davies exacerbates moments with long-takes in an attempt to try and express the unspoken depth of the film. In the end, it winds up just feeling rather hollow.
The film's storytelling prowess is only worsened by the awkward inclusion of **** poetry. Narrated by Nixon as **** writes or simply as she does something, the moments never really flow into the rest of the film. Instead, it feels like an overall diversion that never really works. While the poetry is beautiful - even if similarly elusive as the film itself - it simply does not work into the film as smoothly as it could and, as a result, the film's abbreviated approach to her life is met with a fractured approach to storytelling that lacks flaw and is far rockier than one would have expected when opting to watch the film.
However, though **** characterization is increasingly elusive and distant, A Quiet Passion's moments of developing her are well-taken with Davies really shining a light on her, even if it not really positive. Born in a time where women were expected to be docile and unquestioning, she was a powerful feminist voice arguing for equality. Citing that as her reasoning for not wanting to marry - equality - **** is mostly a recluse. As her sister Vinnie (Jennifer Ehle) warns her in beginning, we often become what we do not want to become. For Emily, she does not want to become enslaved to another, but mostly does not want to become her mother. Long suffering, prone to crying, and a hermit, her mother is somebody she loves, but wishes to never become. Unfortunately, by the end of the film, it is clear that her own pretension has relegated her to a life of isolation like that of her mother. For Vinnie, this means she must be a doting sister at the beck and call of her sister, out of love.
Plays stiff and stuffy like an old black and white, almost as if it was shot to be some theater caricature. Review urbanmagic's zero score is a tad too low though; has a few decent moments but those often seem incongruous to neighboring scenes and even some characters within the very scene, as if they were cast into in completely different genres.
Let me start by stating that I'm not a poetry fan (unless it's a naughty limerick), but even if I were a fierce devotee, this dreary biopic would have faded my fervor forever. It follows poet Emily **** (Cynthia Nixon) from her early years to her final reclusive, pain-racked days. This film is over 2 hours, but without the interminable pauses between EVERY line, it would run less than an hour. The pacing is dreadful, the stilted language borders on pretentious and the endless misery isn't mitigated by the occasional readings of her poems. There are some attractive costumes and the stark gentility of the period is interesting, but the incredible tedium that pervades the pacing drains any hope of redemption. The best thing about the movie is the clever way they morphed the family members from their teen versions to the adult actors.
Evidently poor Emily **** came from a family of neurotic, sickly, pedantic sad sacks. It is amazing that she managed to write any poetry at all, let alone her huge collection of wry, clever, sometimes depressed but always clear-eyed verse. I don't doubt that life in her smothering family, during this time period, was rather grim. See also: the Brontes. But this tedious film really does not explore where all that wonderful poetry came from, probably because there are limits on what's known about **** for sure. Worst of all, there isn't much of her poetry here! And a scene in which she spouts her "I'm nobody/Who are you?" verse to an infant nephew is just cringeworthy. Cynthia Nixon waxes hysterical, but who wouldn't? On the upside, it's always delightful to see Jennifer Ehle, in anything (playing E's sister).