A Quiet Strength in A Quiet Place

It was nice to be back in a theater again getting to see a movie which I was planning to see on my birthday back in March of 2020 before everything decided to hit the fan. There was something special getting to see it with friends who have helped, in their own particular ways, keep each other sane during this past year. Things seem to be slowly coming back to normal, and as they do, I find myself increasingly thankful for the people who demonstrate that even the most abnormal seasons are worthwhile.

———

It did not take John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” long to find good reception among an assortment of different audiences. While it markets itself as a horror film, many have found that it does not quite check that box. It is an apocalyptic family film which somehow manages to be both wholesome and frightening in equal parts. And while the modern, apocalyptic genre often reeks of nihilism, A Quiet Place concerns itself with an unsuspecting and upside-down virtue of quiet self-sacrificial strength.

Regan, the family’s daughter played by Millicent Simmonds, is deaf in a world where making any noise may result in almost instant death by quadrupedal creatures who hunt with their super-sensitive hearing. Her father, Lee (John Krasinski), is driven to helping her regain her sense of hearing but who ultimately fails to do so—but not without helping provide the tool necessary to expose the ultimate weakness of the predators who have sent them into a life of quiet terror.

One might suspect in a world falling apart that the way to survive is the way of brute force, yet what we find in this movie’s moral fabric is that one’s weaknesses may in fact be a conduit for strength and that survival for survival’s sake is ultimately a dead-end. Like in Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, the question is posed: what is the point of surviving if there are not still some of us who “carry the fire”? Apocalypse may mean, in a classical sense, an unveiling, but in this film what is unveiled is the surprising moral fortitude of each member of the Abbott family.

Some have commented about the strikingly “pro-living” message of the film in that a baby is joyfully conceived in a world in which having a loud, screaming baby might very well be a death-sentence. It costs each member of this family something to care for this child, but it is a task each one takes up hopefully and in earnest. To have a child in a world seemingly falling apart requires its own quiet strength. And to lay down one’s life in the ordinary routine of life often suggests that one may just be willing to lay down one’s own life even unto death.

A Quiet Place Part 2—while I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible—takes up exactly where the first film leaves off. The family attempts to survive with one less member but who are still as animated by the virtues of love and self-sacrifice that their father sought to embody. Each bears an even greater load with the loss, and a new character, Emmett (Cilian Murphy), is introduced. Emmett is broken by his own set of losses and has given in to the sort of cynicism and despair one might naturally conclude is only sensible in such a world as theirs. Interestingly, it is Regan and Emmett who make the sequel as emotionally resonant as the first film.

The silent strength of the family (but particularly Regan) has an almost infectious effect on Emmett who in his own isolation of self-survival is reminded that there are indeed people still worth saving even at tremendous risk to himself. The virtue of self-sacrifice is not exclusive to family, but perhaps is demonstrated even more profoundly in a bond without such innately expected loyalty.

The quiet strength of this family is slowly but surely cultivated, and in the film’s fitting conclusion, the hope of this virtue, the fruit of this faithful family, is shown to be boldly carried forth. I hope I don’t give away too much when I say that Lee would certainly be proud.

A Quiet Place Part 2 proves itself to be a worthy sequel. It does what any good sequel should do: it complements and helps reach conclusions of the first film without betraying the moral, logical, or emotional consistency of the original. While I am not entirely convinced there is room for a Part 3, I would be lying if I told you I wouldn’t still be excited for it.

On Loving Rightly

Invariably in friendships are imbalances of give-and-take. Perhaps a practical outworking of “laying your life down for your friends” is not allowing this calculus to dictate how we love our friends but to give out of charity, to love as we have been loved. In other words, to love rightly is to love in reference to something greater than ourselves or our own finite lovers.

St. Augustine in his On Christian Teaching differentiates between loving for the sake of enjoyment and for the sake of use. What he means is that our loves towards things are either towards their own ends or for the sake of a greater end, respectively. We should not think of “use” here as a negative thing unless we so “use” ourselves or others for something less than the ultimate enjoyment and ultimate Good.

The proper end of our love is the Triune God who is unchangeable and eternal, and directing our loves towards this ultimate end should be the reference point of all our loves—whether that be the love of ourselves or the love of our friends or spouses. When we make ourselves or another finite thing the final end of our loves, we settle for something ‘changeable’ instead of the ‘unchangeable good.’ Our loves need something more than a temporary end, and perhaps this is no greater misery than committing one’s life to an improper end of love—however right that may feel in the moment. This is not to say we are to see others or ourselves as less than good but rather that in delighting in ourselves and others we must keep sight of the Good behind that good. Or as Augustine says: “any other object of love that enters the mind should be swept towards the same destination as that to which the whole flood of our love is directed.”

To love ourselves and our friends rightly is in one respect to love them in light of God. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment in the law is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and the second greatest is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-39). He also told us that, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Each love has its own place, but to love rightly is to keep our loves in order: neither should we place our love of friends over God or place our love of self over our friends. There is a new calculus to gospel love, and Jesus demonstrates this by calling us his friends, laying his life down for us, all so that we might enjoy the Triune God forever. And he invites us into this new pattern of love.