A Quiet Passion (2016)

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Director: Terence Davies
Cast: Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle, Duncan Duff, Keith Carradine, Jodhi May


Emily, the plain brains of the Dickinson family, rejects subservience to God, confines herself to her home, her family and her poetry, and dies of an agonising kidney disease.

The Review

Purveying a straitened view of upper middle-class American society of the 1860s, Davies as ever stresses theatricality in his staging and direction of actors, who often appear as if moving through a museum. There is rawness of personal relationships and verbal jousting aplenty, belied by the gentle ruefulness of Dickinson's poetry, which is quoted at length. The director's customary preoccupation with suffering womankind (and with death) is again present in spades, and his subject's proto-feminism, religious skepticism and love of the Brontes are clearly calculated to underline her modernity. There is even a scene in which, in her discussion of the discomforts of marital sex with her sister-in-law, he seems to be making a case for her as a closeted lesbian. On the plus side, given Davies's scrupulous attention to detail and irreproachable taste, here is a film at least that takes no prisoners and makes no apologies for itself as an erudite piece of dramaturgy in which every shot is carefully considered (if lingered over) for potency.