'A Quiet Passion' won't encourage viewers to seek out Emily Dickinson's poetry

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Cynthia Nixon stars as a sour and embittered Emily Dickinson in Terence Davies's film. Jennifer Ehle as Emily’s sister and Keith Carradine as her indulgently authoritarian father help somewhat to thaw out the proceedings.

Courtesy of Music Box Films
'A Quiet Passion' stars Cynthia Nixon (l.) and Jennifer Ehle (r.).

Cynthia Nixon plays Emily Dickinson as a sour and embittered spinster in Terence Davies’s cold-as-ice “A Quiet Passion,” a movie that won’t encourage many in the audience to seek out Dickinson’s sublime poetry. The Emily of this movie seems to survive primarily to take everyone in her orbit to task. Davies is holding her up as the indomitable spirit of genius – a woman who suffers fools not at all.

I appreciate his desire to counteract the usual romantic cinematic clichés of divinely inspired tortured souls, but he’s overcorrected and created an anti-cliché: the harridan as heroine. In supporting roles, Jennifer Ehle as Emily’s sister and Keith Carradine as her indulgently authoritarian father help somewhat to thaw out the proceedings. Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, and brief suggestive material.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.