A Quiet Passion looks at the life of American Poet Emily Dickinson, portrayed as a young schoolgirl by Emma Bell, but as events move forward into adulthood, the bulk of the movie sees her played by Sex and the City‘s Cynthia Nixon, who is the best thing about this and is certainly a great actress.
The film is another of those cases where I didn’t know a great deal about the protagonist to begin with, so I’m looking for an education as well as entertainment. Sadly, I didn’t get much in the way of either.
Critics have praised this movie to the heights, and I can tell that if you enjoy dyed-in-the-wool period dramas with olde worlde language, this is the film for you. For me, that’s not my sort of film, but the trailer led me to believe it was laced with quite a bit of the late wordsmith’s humour, so that would carry me along. Sadly, while there’s a smattering of this early on, it’s very few and far between, but as the lady’s life progresses and her health worsens, the humour drops off a cliff.
Okay, so she ends up in quite a lot of pain, and thus becomes even more of a recluse, but even then, there didn’t seem to be enough in this on which to hang a viable drama.
On the plus side, there’s also some great acting from Emma Bell, Rose Williams (Young Vinnie), Keith Carradine and Joanna Bacon (Mother) as per parents, and Annette Badland as her Aunt Elizabeth, but a bit of her parents being miserable bug -gers, and the odd line, such as when Young Emily comments on Aunt Elizabeth’s poem, “I’m sure your verse is equal to your talent(!)”, it’s not enough to sustain a two-hour movie.
As for the 12-certificate, I thought a PG would’ve been more appropriate. There’s no swearing in this film and the BBFC confirms that the ’12’ only applied to pictures from a battle scene, as well as how Emily’s illness affects her in later life, but I don’t think this is anything that would’ve affected a young child once the reasons for everything had been explained to them, plus how many young children would be likely to watch a period drama, anyway?
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, and as you’d expect for a major new release, the print is sharp and colourful as you’d expect, evoking the early-to-mid 19th Century period perfectly.
The audio is in DTS HD-MA 5.1, but given the tone of the movie, don’t expect anything whizz-popping in a split-surround stylee…
The extras are brief, to the point where most of them like an afterthought:
- Deleted Scene (2:22): I won’t spoil the content of this, but this short scene would’ve appeared in the middle of the film and this clip is not in HD, and is a rough cut with a blue screen in part of the background. I didn’t notice any obvious CGI in the film, but often it can be used to bolster a scene when they want to make a place look more grand than it is.
- Featurette (1:59): When a featurette is the same length of a trailer, you know you’ve got problems. Turns out this is part of a forthcoming Emily Dickinson documentary, My Letter To The World… but surely it should accompany this film, since it was made at the same time? That’d be a nice idea, but it looks like they’d rather charge you again for that later on.
- Excerpt from My Letter To The World (6:02): A bit more of that documentary.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:51): In the original 2.35:1 theatrical widescreen ratio.
- Also available from Thunderbird Releasing (5:18): Trailers for Toni Erdmann, The Handmaiden and Paterson.
And kudos to Thunderbird for doing the one thing I’ve been asking studios to do for a hell of a long time – putting these trailers in the extras, and not sticking them before the main menu.
- Director’s Commentary: with Terence Davies.
The main menu features a short piece of the theme music set to clips from the film, there’s a bog-standard 12 chapters and subtitles are in English.
Running time: 125 mins
Distributor: Thunderbird Releasing
Released: July 17th 2017
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (DCP)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Terence Davies
Producers: Roy Boulter and Sol Papadopoulos
Screenplay: Terence Davies
Emily Dickinson: Cynthia Nixon
Vinnie Dickinson: Jennifer Ehle
Austin Dickinson: Duncan Duff
Vryling Buffam: Catherine Bailey
Father: Keith Carradine
Mother: Joanna Bacon
Susan Gilbert: Jodhi May
Young Emily: Emma Bell
Miss Lyon: Sara Louise Vertongen
Young Vinnie: Rose Williams
Young Austin: Benjamin Wainwright
Jenny Lind: Marieke Bresseleers
Aunt Elizabeth: Annette Badland
Dr. Holland: Steve Dan Mills
Pastor: Miles Richardson
Margaret (Maid): Verona Verbakel
Maggie (Maid): Yasmin Dewilde
Thomas (Butler): Turlough Convery
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.