Bleak Take on Family Life
Release Date: August 25, 2006
Starring: Camilla Belle, Elisha
Cuthbert, Edie Falco, Shawn
Ashmore, and Martin Donovan
Runtime: 91 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Jamie Babbit
Executive Producer: None
Producer: Carolyn Pfeiffer and Tom
Writer: Abdi Nazemian and Micah
Address Comments To:Jeff Sackman
155 Avenue of the Americas, 7th Floor
New York, New York 10013
Phone: (646) 293-9400
Fax: (646) 214-7907
Dot (Camilla Belle) is a recently orphaned high schooler who comes to live with her godparents, Paul and Olivia Deer (Martin Donovan and Edie Falco), much to the consternation of teenage daughter Nina (Elisha Cuthbert). Dot has everyone convinced she’s deaf and mute and is content to be a social outcast, shutting out the people around her as much as she can. The audience knows this because of her voiceover narration which functions throughout the movie as almost the only slit in her silent veil.
Dot fears interactions with people, but because her silence cloaks her in virtual anonymity, she becomes a kind of confidant to whom people reveal their dark secrets – and there are plenty to go around. With the aid of prescription drugs, Olivia Deer keeps herself in a constant state of disconnection and denial as her husband pursues their teenage daughter. Dot is not the passive confessor people think she is, however, and when she learns about the incestuous relationship in the Deer house, she is compelled to take action.
Dot is meant to be the conscience of the story, such as it is. Though her narration provides some insight into her otherwise impenetrable motivation, the narration feels awkward, like a device employed only to ensure the audience will empathize with her.
THE QUIET never glamorizes the immoral behavior of its characters. It is still (fortunately) easy to find the depiction of the father’s incestuous relationship with his daughter detestable or to pity the mother’s self-destruction. The hatred and loathing that result is certainly evident. Nevertheless, simply depicting the effects of depravity is inadequate storytelling if our criterion for evaluating entertainment involves edification. There should be no prohibition against our storytellers wrestling with the human crimes of hatred, rape, incest, murder, genocide, destruction, or suffering. They are part of the world we are called to redeem and the Bible deals very directly with all of them. We must ask our storytellers to do the same, but, without a moral compass, stories are only a tangle of consequences that lead to the grave. We seek stories that are human – not inhuman or humanist. Human stories deal honestly with our corrupted world but never deny or forsake the hopeful implications of the incarnation.
No doubt some think THE QUIET is brave and bold filmmaking, and truly if you have abandoned the very idea of a moral standard, it is bold indeed to undertake an exploration of the human heart. You are liable to get lost in the dark.
THE QUIET never glamorizes the immoral behavior of its characters. Nevertheless, simply depicting the effects of depravity is inadequate storytelling if there is no moral compass to guide the audience. In THE QUIET, the filmmakers have plunged into the abyss of incest, drug addiction and loathing without the aid of a moral tether. The result is a bleak take on family life and a sordid meditation on destructive behaviors.