27 January 2018 | proud_luddite
A Perfect Title
He life and poetry of Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886) is the subject of this biopic, portraying an early feminist who lived life on her own terms within limited situations while facing sadness and despair in her later years. Dickinson was from a prominent family (her father was a lawyer) and lived in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Writer/director Terence Davies deserves so much credit for this fine film. The first half is blessed with sharp and witty dialogue using language and repartee in a style that is rarely used in today's America. Similarly, Davies' directing style is as poetic as Dickinson's writings which are frequently recited in the background. Even when poetry is not recited, there is a poetic mood that stays throughout the film especially in the second half when the lightness of the early years have passed.
For the most part, the acting is good especially Cynthia Nixon as the adult version of Dickinson. Nixon is especially strong in the later years of despair and illness. But there are moments the actors seem ill at ease with a language that no longer exists in contemporary America. Catherine Bailey portrays a very sharp-witted, independent-minded friend of Emily and her sister. While Bailey is good in the role, some extra pizzazz could have made her a scene-stealer.
The second half is quite serious at it deals with illness, dying, and the despair of living a life that is perceived as only partly lived. One particularly moving scene involved Emily brushing off the kind attention of a sincere, handsome suitor. By the end of this scene, it was easy to feel empathy and sadness for everyone involved.
"A Quiet Passion" was like the experience of visiting a historical home that is open to the public where ropes separate visitors from the rooms. But in this case, the ropes are temporarily removed and we are allowed in as long as we keep a respectful distance. With a fine cast as well as superb lighting, costumes, and set designs, Davies does a great job in recreating a time and place long gone. Viewing this film is a very soulful experience.