Stylistically, ‘A Quiet Passion’ is a beautifully written, well acted piece of art. The poetic dialogue oozes charm and the authentic fashion and attitudes of the time are brilliant to see. While this unique biopic of poet Emily Dickinson is an interesting watch, it ultimately feels dull at times with a single 19th century house dominating the scenery and long, drawn out shots that feel like it pads the story.
The story itself follows Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Bell), the 19th century poet, as she struggles to overcome prejudice, family and religious conflict within her family and the peoples of the time period. Starting with her early teenage years and quickly progressing to her middle-aged years where her health slowly deteriorates, ‘A quiet Passion’ is a slow paced, methodical tale laced with a softly spoken voice-over reciting poetry. Whilst this is beautiful at times, it only accentuates the slow pace that oftentimes overwhelms the beauty on show.
As a critic and looking at this from a technical standpoint – ‘A Quiet Passion’ ticks all the boxes. A solid script, a poetic voice-over and good acting all combine in this biopic but for me, the emotional attachment just wasn’t there. I felt detached from the characters and the long, drawn out shots filled with operatic singing just feels like filler and a little disjointed from the film.
Its a shame really and I’m sure others will disagree (which is the great thing with film that many can be interpreted in different ways), I never felt invested in the characters and the story and unfortunately that dragged the score down. So whilst I can appreciate this won’t be a popular opinion and some of the reviews for this film across the net are very positive, it just wasn’t a film for me. There are some great moments here but it felt overlong and dragged out. There’s long periods of the film that despite some good dialogue, never move the film along in any meaningful way.
Overall, ‘A Quiet Passion’ is like a painting. You can appreciate the colours, the mood of the piece and the overall craftsmanship but ultimately feel no emotional attachment to it. This absolutely sums up how I feel with this film. Would I recommend this film? If you like slow paced dramas and are a fan of poetry or of Dickinson herself then yes, I’d recommend watching it but for others more used to a quicker pace or a story rife with twists and turns or powerful performances, this probably won’t be for you.