A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
To be an artist is to be dedicated to your art, even to the point of being invested in the tiniest of details (such as the placement of a single comma in a poem). Being an artist does not mean a person must be alone; in fact, being alone and avoiding romantic entanglements can be a source of pain. To be human is to suffer, but art -- and friends and family -- can help you endure many things.
Positive Role Models
Dickinson is a fierce advocate for her poetry at a time when it wasn't generally acceptable for women to be artists, making her an early feminist. But her independence had a cost, and her sharp wit and prickly manner sometimes drove people away. She takes losses and setbacks very hard and often sees things more pessimistically than optimistically. But she perseveres, always.
Violence & Scariness
Intense arguments between family members. One sequence covers the U.S. Civil War, with onscreen photos of battles and casualties. Key characters die, and others mourn their passing with tears and other forms of grief.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Discussions about sex using oblique references and subtle allusions, including a wife who talks about doing "her duty." One scene shows a couple embracing on a sofa, leading to many arguments about infidelity.
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One character uses the word "prick"; otherwise no swearing at all.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
No drinking or smoking; some scenes explicitly discuss characters who abstain from drinking and even avoid tea and coffee.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Quiet Passion is a drama based on the life of Emily Dickinson. Cynthia Nixon plays the acclaimed 19th-century poet, showcasing her sharp wit, perseverance, and fierce independence, as well as the choices that led to a life of solitary introspection. The story, which is beautifully filmed, examines Dickinson's day-to-day life and her struggle to establish herself as a literary voice at a time when women were mostly silenced. There's almost no drinking, swearing, or sex (aside from a reference to a wife doing "her duty"), though characters do long for others romantically. Characters argue, and some die, leading to intense mourning. The language may seem stiff and overly formal to a modern audience. Younger viewers may learn something about the social conditions that made it difficult for Dickinson to wed, as well as how her resulting loneliness helped inspire her writing. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Spare but not spartan in filmmaking (there's no music or special effects to pump viewers' emotional well), this thought-provoking film will appeal to fans of Dickinson and poetry in general. With little to distract from the actual biographical story, A Quiet Passion allows Dickinson's words to take center stage, aided by Nixon, who strips her portrayal of the complicated and sometimes miserable writer of any artifice and distils it to its wonderful essence.
Nonetheless, A Quiet Passion could be a challenging watch for younger viewers, with its sober, somber quality. And despite of Nixon's best efforts, Dickinson's source of despair and intractability still feels hard to put a real finger on, making it difficult to identify with her pain, even if we do feel compassion for her.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.