Early in A Quiet Place, the four unnamed members of an unnamed family clasp hands around the supper table and close their eyes for a silent family grace before meals. Such an unremarkable daily gesture of domestic togetherness and piety might be likelier to crop up, ironically, in a post-apocalyptic horror movie than in any other Hollywood genre.
There is something about living from hour to hour for weeks and years in constant peril of vicious predatory monsters roaming the earth that makes one alive to the gift of a meal with loved ones. There is something, too, about the humdrum ritual of giving thanks for daily bread that weaves together yesterday, today and tomorrow with threads of hope and trust, keeping alive the ordinary and at least momentarily banishing the monsters.
It’s not just the grace before meals. Mom and Dad — per the end credits, Evelyn and Lee Abbott, played by real-life husband and wife Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, who also directs — have an easy emotional intimacy and awareness of one another that would be moving and enviable in any screen couple. Their slow dance to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon — sharing earbuds because the blind monsters track their prey by sound, so any significant noise is potentially deadly — is the most tender screen dance in ages.
Evelyn and Lee are archetypal parents, nurturing and self-sacrificing. Evelyn, carrying their fourth child for much of the movie, home schools Marcus (Noah Jupe, about 12) in math and English, along with doing the cooking and cleaning, though she can handle the family’s lone shotgun as well as Lee.
Bearded Lee tinkers with the elaborate surveillance system with which he has tricked out their remote farmhouse compound and takes Marcus on father-son hunting-gathering expeditions, training him to assume, if necessary, Lee’s role as chief provider and protector.
There isn’t much concern about traditional gender roles in their relationship, and the considerable masculinity on display is anything but toxic. A couple of years ago, in a pair of essays on problems around the negativity of religious representation in Hollywood movies, I noted that positive depictions of Catholic faith and identity in major Hollywood films in recent years tend to be almost exclusively in a particular sort of horror film. Perhaps a good husband and father, like a good priest, is nowhere likelier than in a horror movie of another sort.
On the other hand, their eldest, Regan (Millicent Simmonds, about 14), resents that Marcus is always the one to accompany Lee on his trips — and Marcus would be happy to let his older sister go in his place. But Lee wants Regan to stay home and help Evelyn in his absence.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.