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Finding human dignity in "A Quiet Place"

Oct 30, 2018

In the opening pages of Russell Moore’s latest book, The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home, he discusses several reasons why Halloween is his favorite holiday:

I’m supposed to hate Halloween, but I just can’t do it. Since I was a very small child, Halloween brought to me, well, tidings of comfort and joy.

As a child, I took seriously what the old people said about the holiday as a “devil’s night,” about the veil between the spirit world and ours being especially, and dangerously, thin that night. That was what I liked about it. Halloween, it seemed, took seriously what I intuitively knew to be true: the world outside was terrifying.

The night also seemed to reinforce what I read in my Bible, that the universe around me was alive with invisible forces, some of which meant me harm. Halloween seemed to be the night when grown-ups would admit this, at least a little bit. It seemed to my younger self, too, that if there were scary realities out there, the idea of calendaring out a night to recognize them for what they were made sense.

The best part of the night for me had nothing to do with candy or costumes, but was rather when the night was over, when I was tucked away in bed, knowing that my parents were asleep on the other side of the sheetrock wall. The night outside might be howling with witches and werewolves, but all was safe at home. That seemed far from pagan to me. It seemed, as a matter of fact, right in line with my biblical ancestors in ancient Egypt. The angels of death could lurk around outside the house all they wished, but the blood was on the doorpost, and all would be well.

I read these words from Moore days before watching A Quiet Place, a film that captures this passage and much of Moore’s book on family quite powerfully.

As the parent of two young boys, I don’t see movies as frequently as I used to. So I caught up with one of 2018’s earliest surprise hits recently. This movie was John Krasinski’s directorial and writing debut, starring him and his real-life wife, Emily Blunt. If you can tolerate a PG-13 thriller in the vein of some of Hitchcock’s more tense films and M. Night Shyamalan’s earliest hits (The Sixth Sense, Signs), this could be a fun and redemptive film to watch this week once the young kids are in bed and all tuckered out from trick-or-treating and/or trunk-or-treating.

John Krasinski, best known as Jim from The Office, refers to A Quiet Place as the most personal professional project he’s ever worked on and a love letter to his kids. And while the film has some thrilling moments that will make you jump, the biggest jumps and exclamations are reserved for moments in which the two parents in the film are selflessly sacrificing for their young children, one of whom is hearing-impaired and another who has special medical needs. There aren’t many films today that show families living life together in mundane moments, from praying at dinner and doing the laundry, to playing board games and doing chores. But it’s the high-concept of the film (blind creatures have invaded earth and hunt only by sound) that makes these moments as high-stakes as they could be.

And it brought me to the brink of tears numerous times. Maybe it’s because some of the children in the film reminded me of my two young sons. Maybe it’s because culture today rarely shows how fathers and mothers, daughters and sons can love each other in simple times, overcoming grief, miscommunication, and stress to bond together and love effectively.

But perhaps the power of this 90-minute thriller is how central human dignity is to every part of the story—the dignity of our friends and neighbors with disabilities, the dignity of every single life even before she is born, the dignity of simple sacrifice by parents, the dignity of grace and forgiveness, and so much more.

I don’t want to spoil the entire film, but its tension is continually ramped up around the lengths to which this family is willing to go to protect and love one another well. In the post-apocalyptic landscape of the film, hope seems to be lost, but, to borrow from Cormac McCarthy’s somewhat similar The Road, this family is keeping the light alive by loving each other well.

It’s the husband and the wife’s tender moments together. It’s the children fighting, arguing, and reconciling. It’s the father asking for his child’s forgiveness and the mother teaching her children how to grieve. It’s a mother doing whatever it takes for her unborn child, even in the most dangerous circumstances. It’s putting everything on the line and being willing to lose it all so your children may live.

It’s the Christian story shining through in a Hollywood film. Like Moore recognizes about Halloween, perhaps fear in the darkness can best remind us of the power of love and the light.

Joseph Williams

Joseph Williams, a native Tennessean, is an attorney and founding partner of The Peacefield Group, a legal and policy consulting firm in Nashville. Prior to founding The Peacefield Group, he practiced law at the American Center for Law & Justice,... Read More