Illuminating Emily Dickinson’s life — “A Quiet Passion” illuminates the screen


Emily Dickinson has long been known as the poet who didn’t do very much.

Though her life is not a subject many inspect, her poetry has been celebrated for nearly a century.

For the first time, Dickinson’s life is inspected and revealed on screen with an all-star cast.

Terence Davies, director of “Sunset Song” and “Distant Voices, Still Lives” directs this cast.

Davies is also known for literary translations to film such as “The House of Mirth.”

The director’s relation to literature is highly apparent throughout the film, as Dickinson’s poetry is suffused alongside regular discourse in a smooth and artistic way.

Cynthia Nixon beautifully fulfills the role of Dickinson as an adult, and more than succeeds in playing a character that both fulfilled the roles of a 19th century woman, and deeply protested them.

Perhaps what I appreciated most about the film was its ability to make beautiful what Dickinson praised in her poetry with minimal projection or speculation on the part of the director.

Dickinson’s relationships with women have been the subject of some interest by historians.

Davies is able to explore this important aspect of her life without delving into the unknown.

For a life that, in words might seem rather dull, the film is able to illuminate this life.

By doing so, spectators will hopefully be given an idea of what inspired her famous work.

Dickinson’s relationship with her family is also beautifully portrayed.

The author lived with them for the entirety of her adult life, something modern audiences may not relate to or understand.

Dickinson’s mother, her namesake, is played by Joanna Bacon.

This character specifically seems to evoke a passionate response from the poet who is the exact opposite of her nearly silent mother.

“A Quiet Passion” is a total success that works to highlight the aspects of Emily Dickinson’s life which few take time to investigate.

Through this, a more complete portrait of the author is given, and audiences can hope discover the “quiet passion” that drove one of the most beloved wordsmiths to write what she did.

Will Meyer can be reached at

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