THE REST IS SILENCE
Main Cast: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt
Director: John Krasinski
Oh my darlings, I must apologize for my prolonged absence from your lives and I am sure you haven’t quite known how to proceed without regular infusions of my panache and glamour emanating from your tablets and smart phones, but it has all been for a very good reason, tragedy has struck Casa Maine and I just haven’t known which end is up. Some months ago, Normy, who has been very experimental in some of his musical compositions, received a commission from the US Geological Survey to write a new work in honor of their upcoming sesquicentennial. His concerto for flugelhorn and rockslide in D minor was to be performed on the slopes of Mount Lassen and he went up there to see to the proper installation of the charges for the climactic final movement. Somehow something went wrong in the dress rehearsal and the rockslide was triggered four measures early and poor Normy was not quite yet in position and was swept away by a stray boulder and was tragically killed when he was flung against a section of storm culvert that had been put in the wrong place by a Cal DOT subcontractor.
I was in the process of discussing a return to the stage in Romeo and Juliet with DeWolfe, the great impresario, when I got the call. I immediately stopped working on our new opening number, Ma-ma-ma-ma My Verona, and flew to Normy’s side but, alas, was too late to do anything other than say goodbye. I shall miss him terribly, and his absence is making me want to hole up at Casa Maine, eating chocolate truffles and leafing through old photo albums, but I am a trouper and will continue to get out and about and give a little star quality to all of my fans. In the meantime, I am working on plans for a grand Hollywood celebration of Normy and his life and work. I think, however, in the name of good taste, we will leave that final composition off of the program. The Pantages probably doesn’t need a surfeit of igneous rocks rolling down their aisles on cue. USGS is still planning on using the work as part of their lava control at Kilauea in Hawaii this next month.
I did head out to the local cineplex for a matinee last week. I was in no mood for the usual popcorn movie full of fast editing, explosions and overdone special effects. I wanted something with a sense of stillness behind it, so I opted for John Krasinski’s new film, A Quiet Place, which became a sleeper hit this spring. I had heard good word of mouth, so I settled in with my popcorn and my peanut M and Ms (Normy’s favorite) in order to lose myself for a little while.
A Quiet Place is the story of a family, the Abbots who live on a farm in rural New England somewhere. The film begins with the family quietly tiptoeing into an abandoned pharmacy in an abandoned town. For some reason, they do not speak to each other but are fluent in American Sign Language which we soon learn is due to their daughter’s congenital hearing impairment. Writer/director Krasinski wisely does not tell us too much in terms of exposition but drops subtle clues as to what’s going on and we soon learn that making any sound can have deadly consequences when tragedy catches up with them a few minutes later. It soon becomes apparent that some sort of alien being, with poor vision, but hyperacute hearing has been hunting and fairly successfully exterminating the human race.
Fast forward a year or so and papa (John Krasinski) and mama (Emily Blunt) are coping with their grief. Mama is pregnant and their children Reagan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) are attempting to negotiate a world in which even the slightest sounds can summon voracious and highly dangerous creatures intent on killing you. This means no conversation, no music, no laughter, no loud activity and what are they going to do with a new baby crying and who is some years from being taught how to be silent? The saga of their survival is heartbreaking and very human as the parents try desperately to protect their children from this terrifying new world. They know that no matter how careful they are, how much sand they spread to muffle footsteps, and how many precautions they take that the least little mistake can spell disaster.
The film is brilliantly constructed. There are almost no characters outside of this small nuclear family, clinging to each other in a world where nothing is what it was. Millicent Simmons as Reagan, the daughter, on the cusp of adolescence and in a world of silence is the most conflicted. She blames herself for an early tragedy, and feels compelled to try and keep her little brother safe at potential risk to herself. She wants to be a rambunctious tween but can’t and both she and Noah Jupe, who plays her brother, bring a quiet desperation to their roles. The real revelation, however, is Krasinski, for whom the project is an obvious labor of love as writer/director/star. Acting opposite real-life wife Emily Blunt (with whom he has several children), he emphasizes the family bonds and the fierce lengths to which a parent will go to protect his or her children in the face of impossible odds. His usual image as the lovable doofus is left far behind as we see the terror and agony behind his eyes as he tries desperately to save his children from death, destruction, and despair.
The film consists of a number of set pieces, which are constrained by the geography of the family farm and home, and become almost claustrophobic in feel. There is the need to find and forage for food. There is the danger of late stage pregnancy and childbirth when you cannot utter a sound. There are the potential hazards of the full grain silo. Each episode skillfully interlocks with the others into a high-tension thriller with a heart-breaking ending in which there are victories, but not without great cost and we are left with a family with a more hopeful future, but not one that is likely to ever be what we would consider normal.
Sound plays a key role in the film. The scenes from young Reagan’s point of view are silent, emphasizing her deafness, other scenes have ambient sounds that seem almost overbearing as our characters can only communicate with each other by glances, body language and ASL. There is a wonderful music score by Marco Beltrami which helps us connect with the story through our usual cinematic expectations without ever overwhelming the narrative or letting us forget the power of silence that is needed for survival in this brave new world.
Krasinski has made a minor masterpiece with his first major studio release and if he is capable of finding and shaping good material like this in the future, his will be a career worth watching. I’m looking forward to what he comes up with next.
Space shuttle toy. Sand paths. Cochlear implants. Old newspaper headlines. Suicide screaming. Child memorial. Gratuitous alien auricles. Waterfall conversation.
Originally from Seattle Washington, land of mist, coffee and flying salmon, Mrs. Norman Maine sprang to life, full grown like Athena, from Andy’s head during a difficult period of life shortly after his relocation to Alabama.