Don’t even think about getting popcorn during A Quiet Place.
I don’t care if you’re hungry. I don’t care if movie theater popcorn is your favorite thing. I really don’t care if you “think you can eat quietly.”
Let me tell you right now: you can’t. Not quietly enough to go unnoticed, and most definitely not quietly enough to keep everyone around you in the theater from silently hating you.
A Quiet Place may not technically be a silent movie, but it’s about as close as it gets, playing with the textures of silence so deftly that if I could’ve held my breath for a full ninety minutes, so as not to interfere with the film’s impeccably quiet soundscape, I would have. All the white noise of a movie theater that typically fades into the background – the crunching of popcorn and slurps of soda, the shifting in seats, the rustling of cardboard boxes of candy, the occasional cough or whisper – felt jarringly amplified.
Let’s put it this way. I will put up with a kid kicking the back of my seat for an entire movie and not say a word, but five minutes into this movie I had to sit on my hands to keep from smacking the paper bag of popcorn out of the hands of the woman next to me.
(She kept shaking it. It was as if she wanted to get eaten by a monster.)
I probably would have done it, too, except that the sound of me smacking a bag of popcorn to the ground would’ve been even louder than her munching, and the only thing worse than sitting by a noisy person during A Quiet Place is being a noisy person during A Quiet Place.
(Don’t even consider a dine-in showing for this movie. Your food will taste like seething resentment and regret.)
Just trust me on this. Eat before the movie. Eat after the movie. But if you cannot abide resisting the urge to stuff your face during the movie, then do everyone a favor and wait for the rental.
Your fellow moviegoers will thank you.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the rest of the film.
The premise of A Quiet Place is simple. Terrifying creatures (which look kind of like the demonic hybrid spawn of a Xenomorph and a Demogorgon, but with giant ear holes) with enhanced hearing and lightning-quick reflexes have invaded Earth and wiped out most of the population. One family – a mother (Emily Blunt), father (John Krasinski), and their children – survives by walking barefoot, making paths of sand to muffle their footsteps, and communicating using ASL, which the whole family knows since the eldest daughter (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf.
What follows is an unrelentingly tense, impeccably paced, and almost completely silent thriller, one that takes an economical approach to exposition that places an ambitious amount of faith in its audience, a daring but effective play by first-time horror director and star John Krasinski (who also co-wrote the screenplay). Still, A Quiet Place could have easily ended up as little more than a competent yet forgettable entry in the One Very Bad Day In The Apocalypse genre, save one thing:
At its heart, A Quiet Place isn’t really about monsters at all.
It’s about parenting.
Don’t get me wrong. The family at the center of A Quiet Place is definitely trying to avoid getting slaughtered by ruthless monsters (and the monsters themselves are a perfect balance of nightmare fuel and really, really cool). But while keeping their kids alive is clearly a herculean task requiring massive amounts of preparation and fortitude, the parents of A Quiet Place aren’t content to stop there. They spend just as much energy determinedly working to ensure that their children’s hard-won lives are as normal and fulfilling as possible, and that their kids are raised in an environment of hope, despite the brutality of their world. It’s inherent in the little things – the game of Monopoly the kids play, the fluffy mobile the mother makes to hang over the (soundproofed) bassinet, the silly faces they make at one another – and in one, whopping, pivotal big thing (which is clear from the trailers): the mother’s pregnancy.
I’ve seen some people claim that Emily Blunt’s character choosing to carry her pregnancy to term, knowing that her baby’s cries could draw the monsters to their farmhouse, is weak writing. They say it’s completely implausible that a couple living in such dire circumstances would ever choose to bring a baby into the world, and the parents’ insistence on doing it anyway feels like an artificial and forced inflation of the stakes, pushing the audience’s ability to suspend disbelief past the breaking point.
And I’m sure, for some people, that is true. After all, even the most sprawling imagination has its limits. Maybe the worldview at the center of this film sits outside of yours, in the realm of the utterly unfathomable, and if so, that’s okay.
However, I offer another interpretation for consideration. Sure, babies are loud and unpredictable, and no one would argue that giving birth or raising an infant are the most prudent choices in a world where sounds can get you killed, assuming one’s only goal is to stay alive. But I would posit that this family’s decision to bring a new life into the world despite knowing the risks is not just a gimmick to ratchet up the already stratospheric stakes, but that it illustrates the entire point of the film: that this story is not just about staying alive, but about living. That it’s not enough for these parents to do what it takes to keep their kids alive; that it is equally important to make them feel safe and find joy, no matter how bleak the world becomes.
So of course when Emily Blunt’s character becomes pregnant (which happens during a time jump; we never discover if the pregnancy was intentional or not), the couple refuses to face this complicated new development with fear. While they absolutely do their best to account for the grim realities of the silent world in which they live (their impressive and extensive preparations include soundproofing a subterranean nursery and readying a tiny oxygen mask to muffle the baby’s first cries), they willfully choose to anticipate the impending due date with ferocious hope instead of the suffocating dread that, one could easily argue, would be a much more natural emotional response to their dire circumstances.
It is this defiantly hopeful worldview that serves as the bedrock for A Quiet Place, standing in bold opposition to an entertainment landscape in which our most popular post-apocalyptic pop culture touchstone centers around the idea that the only thing worse than monsters is other people. The world of A Quiet Place may be one of terrifying and deadly creatures, but it is also one of love and hope and solidarity, in which families still hold hands to pray before meals, lovers still dance, kids still play games, and survivors find solace in knowing there are other people still alive out there, even if they never see one another.
This is not to say that A Quiet Place skimps on the scares. From the film’s near-silent opening moments, as the camera follows the barefoot family through a pharmacy as they search for antibiotics for one of the children, tension is high, and it doesn’t let up until the end credits begin to roll. Krasinski cleverly uses the central conceit to crank up the suspense; when a scream or a gasp can summon instant death, fear becomes a caged animal that is constantly clawing to be let out. Some of A Quiet Place’s most harrowing scenes pivot around characters being denied any sort of audible release during moments of pain or horror or fear, and some of its most powerful and poignant moments take place when their voices are finally unleashed.
Still, despite the film’s relentless suspense and undeniable life-and-death stakes, Krasinski doesn’t shy away from exploring more emotional, universal questions, such as whether children know that they are loved, or how parents navigate their feelings of disappointment with their kids. As the dominoes begin to fall in the film’s One Very Bad Day scenario, we never lose sight of the fact that this is not a simple every-man-for-himself survival quest, but a tale of parents and kids, of the insecurities and hidden strengths of children and the immense, practically superheroic power of parental love.
It is worth noting that, while every member of the family is given a name on IMDb, none of them are named within the film itself, using only pronouns to refer to one another during the sparse moments of spoken dialogue. (“She’s smart;” “He knows what to do.”) Typically, I find that a lack of names creates unwelcome distance between the characters and the audience, but in this case, the absence of names somehow draws us even further into the story, turning the characters from individuals into archetypes. The question becomes not what “Lee” and “Evelyn” would do to protect “Regan” and “Marcus,” but what would any parent do — what would you or I do — to protect their children.
A Quiet Place is absolutely a solid entry into the horror thriller and creature feature canon, and Krasinski approaches his cast and subject matter with the dexterity and confidence of a much more seasoned director, leaning into some conventions of the genre while brilliantly subverting others. It’s tightly plotted, beautifully acted (Emily Blunt in particular gives a standout performance; however intense you think that bathtub scene is going to be from the trailer, believe me, it’s worse), and uses its minimal score and layered sound design to maximum, chilling effect.
But beyond that, A Quiet Place is a film that explores practically unfathomable depths of love. It’s a film that made me sob multiple times in the theater, and then again in the days that followed, whenever I would think of certain scenes, not because they were manipulative, but because they were true.
For me, while A Quiet Place was an excellent monster movie, it was ultimately one of the most compelling and visceral illustrations of the unconditional love that parents have for their children that I’ve ever seen, and the way that love emboldens and strengthens us, powering us through tasks that would otherwise feel impossible.
One day (when they’re old enough to not have nightmares for months) it’s a film that I’d like to watch with my kids. Because I think I could point to the screen and say “You see that? That’s how much I love you,” and know that, for once, they might actually get it.