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A Quiet Passion (2016)

PG-13 | | Biography, Drama | 7 April 2017 (UK)
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The story of American poet Emily Dickinson from her early days as a young schoolgirl to her later years as a reclusive, unrecognized artist.

Director:

Terence Davies

Writer:

Terence Davies
3 wins & 22 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Emma Bell ... Young Emily
Sara Vertongen Sara Vertongen ... Miss Lyon (as Sara Louise Vertongen)
Rose Williams ... Young Vinnie
Benjamin Wainwright ... Young Austin
Keith Carradine ... Father
Marieke Bresseleers Marieke Bresseleers ... Jenny Lind
David Van Bouwel David Van Bouwel ... Concert Hall Pianist
Annette Badland ... Aunt Elizabeth
Steve Dan Mills Steve Dan Mills ... Dr. Holland
Joanna Bacon ... Mother
Daniel Vereenooghe Daniel Vereenooghe ... Carriage Driver
Michel Delanghe Michel Delanghe ... Carriage Driver Assistant
Maurice Cassiers Maurice Cassiers ... Photographer
Duncan Duff ... Austin Dickinson
Jennifer Ehle ... Vinnie Dickinson
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Storyline

The story of American poet Emily Dickinson from her early days as a young schoolgirl to her later years as a reclusive, unrecognized artist.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The inspiring untold story of an American literary icon.

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images and brief suggestive material | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official site [Japan]

Country:

UK | Belgium | USA | Canada

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 April 2017 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Historia de una pasión See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

EUR6,900,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$45,825, 16 April 2017

Gross USA:

$1,865,396

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,159,246
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Cynthia Nixon has detected similarities in the personality of Emily Dickinson with hers: In having big feelings, in wanting to connect with other people but not for example party with them, and in desiring to receive attention but kind of having a reluctance of the certain things one does that make it happen. See more »

Goofs

The Bahn Frei polka played in the dance scene had not been written at the time. See more »

Quotes

Emily Dickinson: This is my letter to the world that never wrote to me.
See more »

Soundtracks

Since First I Saw Your Face
Written by Thomas Ford
Arranged by John Harle / PD
Published by Chester Music Ltd.
Performed by Sarah Leonard, John Harle, Alexander Balanescu, Charles J. Badger
Courtesy of Decca Music Group Ltd.
Under license from Universal Music Group Ltd.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Superb Dramatization of the Life of a Great American Poet
15 October 2016 | by nicholasruddickSee all my reviews

Emily Dickinson isn't the easiest subject for a feature-length biopic. True, she is the greatest female poet in the English language, maybe even in world literature. But her life was uneventful in the extreme. She never married and probably died a virgin. Her love affairs were conducted by correspondence. She became reclusive as she got older, donning a white dress, rarely leaving home, and holding conversations through doorways. She wrote poetry—a kind of literature appealing only to a tiny minority of readers and not amenable to film adaptation. Moreover, with a few exceptions, her poems are difficult: she specialized in extreme mental states and thorny intellectual paradoxes. And she died in complete obscurity—it's only by good fortune that the 1800 poems she wrote still exist. At her death the vast majority of them existed only in a single handwritten manuscript and could easily have been consigned to flame as the ramblings of an eccentric spinster.

So Dickinson's biography hardly conforms to the typical story arc or dramatic requirements of the average American film. Until now, the most successful dramatization of the life of this poet who lived an interior existence, both literally and figuratively, was the one-woman play The Belle of Amherst, which needless to say emphasized her isolation.

Terence Davies's film knows and accepts all this, yet remembers that Dickinson in her own time was not a great poet, except perhaps only in the farthest reaches of her own imagination. Instead of a lonely genius, Davies conjures up a Dickinson who was very much a social being, even if her interactions were largely restricted to her family. Cynthia Nixon's Emily is a flawed, totally plausible, and deeply sympathetic woman of her time.

This is a brilliant film in the way it exploits the resources of the medium. The performances are universally excellent, and the dialogue is as witty as it must have been among clever Emily and her circle. Davies captures the claustrophobic interiors and repressed souls of still- Puritan mid-19th-century small-town Amherst, Massachusetts. The editing and pacing are superb, as for example in a slow 360 degree pan around the Dickinson sitting room that begins and ends on Emily's face.

But it's also brilliant in the way that it interprets Dickinson's life. How did the Civil War impact her Amherst domesticity? Why did she wear a white dress? What did she feel when her brother Austin, who lived with his wife Susan next door, started conducting an adulterous affair in her own living room? How did she feel to be dying slowly and horribly of kidney disease knowing that her poetry (her "Letter to the World" as she put it) was almost totally unread? Did the hope that she'd be appreciated by posterity reconcile her to her fate? Nixon's Emily behaves in each case as a human being would, making her predicament painful to watch. But it's strangely exhilarating too—we watch knowing that Dickinson's "Letter" has most definitely been delivered.

The film is slow-paced and developed as a series of vignettes. There's quite a lot of poetry in voice-over. At no point does it pander to 21st- century sensibilities. It will not be to the taste of the majority of the cinema-going public. Nor will many Dickinson cultists enjoy it, as they often prefer to idealize or mythologize her rather than think of her as a flesh-and-blood woman. But as a plausible biography of one of America's greatest poets, this film is nothing short of a triumph.


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