A Quiet Passion | Chicago Reader

A Quiet Passion

Rated PG-13 126 minutes 2016

British writer-director Terence Davies (Distant Voices, Still Lives, The Long Day Closes) is an old hand at the challenge of communicating characters' interiority, but he stumbles with this biopic about Emily Dickinson. Trying to fathom the poet's psyche, he uses her verses to comment on things (such as unrequited romantic love) that, he imagines, shaped her. This works well enough, but some stretches of dialogue, particularly those between the adult Emily (Cynthia Nixon) and a headstrong bluestocking (Catherine Bailey), are so laced with bon mots that they tighten like a corset. Jennifer Ehle is outstanding as Emily's sister, and Florian Hoffmeister's lustrous cinematography compares with his work on Davies's The Deep Blue Sea.

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