Film Review: A Quiet Passion

A Quiet Passion

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.

BFI London Film Festival 2016 Launch

Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2016. This year’s programme is bursting with cinematic delights. There are more galas than in previous years, and screen talk participants include Werner Herzog and Paul Verhoeven. Here are some of the films to look out for at London Film Festival 2016.

Headline Galas

The Birth of a Nation

The London Film Festival 2016’s opening gala A United Kingdom had already been announced, the Scorsese-produced, Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire looks like a lot of fun. Elsewhere, plenty of hotly anticipated films including La La Land, Arrival and The Birth of a Nation. Writer-director Nate Parker also stars in the story of an enslaved preacher who led a revolt in 1830s Virginia. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is also a headline gala. An adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, the film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe stars David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

The Handmaiden

This year sees additional galas, which will take place on a purpose built venue on the Strand. They include The Handmaiden, from director Chan-wook Park. The film looks as sumptuous as Park’s previous film Stoker. Miles Teller stars in Bleed For This, based on the true story of boxer Vinny Paziena. Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is the Sonic Gala. The hip hop musical features Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Ava DuVernay’s The 13th are among the special presentations this year.

Official Competition

My Life As A Courgette

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2016. Staring Isabelle Huppert, the film is an adaptation of a Philippe Dijan novel. Terence Davies’ A Quiet Presentation is a biopic of Emily Dickinson staring Cynthia Nixon. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, about a young man struggling with his sexuality in 1980s Miami, looks like a great watch. In the First Feature Competition, Porto sees one of Anton Yelchin’s final performances, whilst animation My Life As A Courgette looks like a lot of fun. David Lynch: The Art Life is among the contenders for the Documentary Competition, as well as The Graduation. The latter is a documentary about a prestigious film school in Paris. Chasing Asylum, about the Australian government’s immigration policies, seems very topical.


The Salesman

The Love strand features Lovesong, director So Yong Kim’s film about a lonely young mother. It stars Jena Malone and Riley Keough. Highlights in the Debate category include Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. A Separation‘s Farhadi has already won awards at Cannes. Mindhorn features in the Laugh strand. The film stars Julian Barratt as a washed-up 1980s TV detective. Dare features Christine, starring Rebecca Hall as the notorious television journalist. Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog looks to be a highlight of the Thrill section, with Nicholas Cage starring alongside Willem Dafoe. Another David Lynch connection (Cage and Dafoe starred in Lynch’s Wild at Heart), Blue Velvet Revisited, features in the Cult strand.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Cult also features I Am Not A Serial Killer, based on the young adult novel. The Innocents looks to be a highlight of the Journey strand. Anne Fontaine’s film is about a young doctor working for the French Red Cross in 1945. London Town, a coming of age film set in 1979 London, features in the Sonic strand. The Family strand includes Rock Dog, an animation featuring the voices of J.K. Simmons and Luke Wilson. Finally, Experimenta includes Have You Seen My Movie?; a must-see for cinema fans.

The full London Film Festival 2016 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th-16th October 2016.