There are day-to-day crises and traumas that are somehow absorbed into the continuity of our lives, and then there are inexorable turning points that divide our lives into “before” and “after.”
Such moments come to individuals and families, like the death of a parent or a spouse; they also occur on larger scales, to communities, to nations, and even on a global scale.
Two decades on, the September 11, 2001 attacks still loom as the most consequential before-and-after event of the 21st century, and certainly the obvious reference point when an ordinary day is abruptly shattered, as in the opening scene in A Quiet Place Part II, by an ominous trail of smoke in the sky and people running and screaming in the streets.
Between the 2018 opening of A Quiet Place and the arrival of this sequel, though, some of the first film’s themes and images have acquired new resonance.
A Quiet Place depicted a family living in isolation, sheltering in place to protect themselves from a scourge ravaging the world around them, not without chafing at the restrictions they must endure. When they venture into town, they find store shelves stripped of staples. As careful as they try to be, it isn’t enough to protect themselves from loss.
It may be too soon to say whether, five, 10, or 20 years from now, the coronavirus pandemic will loom as one of those defining before-and-after events. In any case, with A Quiet Place Part II among the first major films to arrive in theaters after the lockdowns began — and more than a year after its March 2020 world premiere — it’s impossible not to see our long ordeal reflected in the world of the film.
The original film began in medias res, on Day 89 of the alien invasion. Technically the origin of the predatory monsters ravaging the world wasn’t addressed, but Part II takes us back to Day 1 at least long enough to establish that they fell from the sky one fine sunny day in the middle of a Little League game, although it would have been the middle of the night in Shanghai, where fragmentary news reports of unexplained fatalities were the first inkling that the globe stood on the frontier of “before” and “after.”
The prologue flashback — a tantalizing glimpse of the Old Normal, back when it was okay to slam car doors and holler or cheer at a baseball game — briefly reunites Emily Blunt’s Evelyn and writer-director John Krasinski’s Lee, who at that time has approximately 473 days to live.
It’s funny to think of people scratching their heads when this “quiet” film is justly nominated for sound editing and sound mixing Oscars.
While A Quiet Place is a terrific film just the way it is, I can’t help wishing there were more families like this in other kinds of movies.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.