Terence Davies’ Emily Dickinson biopic is witty and beautifully shot. A Quiet Passion is a sincere portrait of the poet.
Young Emily Dickinson’s views are at odds with the teachings of her religious school. As she grows up, her love of writing poetry grows, as does her reluctance to confirm to the social mores of the period…
Writer-director Terence Davies delivers a thoughtful period drama in his depiction of the life of Emily Dickinson. A Quiet Passion is beautifully composed, from the exquisite camera work and art direction, to a pleasing script. Davies admiration for his subject matter shine through.
The film begins on Emily as a teenage girl, leaving her school to return to the family home. It then jumps forward to her life as an adult. Davies litters the film with Dickinson’s poetry, relating her words to different occasions in her life. It is a lovely way to tell her story, whilst reminding viewers of the beauty of her poetry. The script is absolutely fantastic. The film sparkles with wit, and the language is expressive throughout.
The first half of A Quiet Passion is stronger than the second half. This section features the fizz of the dialogue, which will frequently have viewers laughing. The second half of the film is bleaker, lacking some of the enjoyment of the first. Although the conveys the change in outlook and the life events of the protagonist, this part of the film feels rather leaden.
Davies beautifully films A Quiet Passion. There are many nice touches, such as the panning shots. The ageing portraits in particular are wonderful to see. The costumes and sets are also great. The score is almost as beautiful as the visuals. Cynthia Nixon delivers a convincing performance as Dickinson. She captures a progressive sense of pessimism which feels most authentic. Jennifer Ehle is also great, as is Catherine Bailey. Keith Carradine’s straight faced delivery also works well.
A Quiet Passion is a lovingly crafted portrait of Emily Dickinson, for the most part doing the beauty of her words justice.