One way to start (or end) a conversation is to ask people to name the top American poets of the nineteenth century. Likely Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson would be prominent in any claims.
Who will go to see “A Quiet Passion,” the sharp witted and intense exposure to Emily Dickinson’s life? People who are fond of her poetry and the mystery of her will be engaged by the organic weaving of her verse into this period-piece film. As for the mystery, it will continue beyond the help of this film, which probably suits Emily Dickinson fans.
People who admit to being only sketchily familiar with Dickinson but who feel they should know more about this famous 19th Century woman will appreciate this kind of two-hour package in which movies specialize. Lilting, it isn’t. Immersive, it is.
Fans of Cynthia Nixon – from “Sex in the City” days to her recent Tony Award – will especially enjoy the complexity of an acting challenge well met. Nixon exudes the mix of compelled expressiveness and pent up aloneness. She puts proper alchemy into an independent yet constricted spirit. Nixon laces Dickinson’s mounting physical affliction skillfully into the performance.
In the film, Dickinson says, “Poems are my solace for the eternity that surrounds us all.” She needed such solace. She carried death and dying – and plainer departures – heavily. Were it not for the committed sphere of her family, Emily’s time might not have had a toc to tic in.
In a mundane summary of her reclusive day to day, Dickinson asserts, “You have a life; I have a routine.” This movie, “A Quiet Passion,” walks you through rather a small life, barely noticed until after her death.
Perhaps the nib for wanting to see this film is that Emily Dickinson was something of a precursor to the modern woman. Corseted by the conventions of the 19th Century, indeed by her own form of buy-in to those conventions, she was nonetheless an intelligence and an attitude to be reckoned with by history.