A QUIET PASSION by Carol Kaufman Segal (film review)
A Quiet Passion is a biographical film about American poet, Emily Dickenson, written and directed by celebrated British Director Terrence Davies. In this film, Davies has paid homage to a woman who was not recognized for her talent until after her death.
Emily was born in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1830. The film opens in 1848 where Emily (Emma Bell) has been attending Mount Holyoke College. When she refuses to accept God by a stern headmistress, she is expelled from the school. Her family is only too happy to bring her home.
Emily, being an outsider, is only too happy to be home as well where she is more comfortable being with her father (Keith Carradine), mother (Joanna Bacon), sister Vinni (Jennifer Ehle), and brother Austin (Duncan Duff). Though Mr. Dickenson does not stress religion to his family, he is not pleased with Emily’s outspoken denial of God. At times he finds her difficult due to her free spirit but, at the same time, they have a loving relationship. He is only too happy to grant her permission when she asks if she can stay up late at night to write her poetry.
As Emily grows older (now played by Cynthia Nixon), she becomes more reclusive, has no interest in marriage, but finds a close friendship with Vrylin Buffam (Catherine Bailey) who is much more liberal than she. Eventually Vrylin marries while, unfortunately, Emily finds an interest in Rev. Charles Wadsworth (Eric Loren) who is already married, and she feels she is destined to remain a spinster.
As the years pass, illness and family deaths cause Emily to become more and more isolated, as she spends further time in her room, refusing to see anyone. However, her sister Vinnie remains close to her until her death at the age of 55.
During her lifetime, Dickenson wrote close to 1800 poems, and less than a dozen were published. However, following her death, and the publication of all of her work, she is considered to be one of America’s major poets.
A Quiet Passion is a beautiful film with an outstanding cast. Terrence Davies has personified each character perfectly. The film is playing at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in Los Angeles.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, min.