A Quiet Passion

Certificate 12A

(2016) 125 mins

Director: Terence Davies
Writer: Terence Davies
Cinematography: Florian Hoffmeister
Production Design: Merijn Sep



Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon) would become one of America’s most celebrated female poets, but only after her death at 56 from Bright’s Disease. Of her hundreds of poems, only a dozen or so were published in her lifetime.  A rebellious misfit at her strictly religious boarding school, she returned to the family home in Amherst where she became increasingly reclusive and idiosyncratic.  Spiritually and intellectually independent, she was a harsh judge of those around her.  Her father (Keith Carradine)  allowed her to sit up writing poetry when the rest of the household was sleeping, an indulgence which she was well aware no husband would have countenanced. With Jennifer Ehle as her beloved sister Vinnie.

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An admirer can be forgiven for approaching A Quiet Passion, Terence Davies’s new movie about Dickinson’s life, with trepidation. The literalness of film and the creaky conventions of the biopic threaten to dissolve that strangeness, to domesticate genius into likable quirkiness. But Mr. Davies, whose work often blends public history and private memory, possesses a poetic sensibility perfectly suited to his subject and a deep, idiosyncratic intuition about what might have made her tick.”  New York Times

This is a moving and engrossing film, and a wonderful performance from Nixon, who combines delicacy with angularity; vulnerability and defiance. Dickinson becomes radiant with loneliness. The nearest she has to faith or a belief in the afterlife is the tortured question of whether her work will survive. Davies’s film keeps its own faith with that.”  The Guardian

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