Warning: the following article contains potential spoilers for A Quiet Place.
In 2018, A Quiet Place, directed by and starring John Krasinski, silently entered theaters. The critical applause the film has not been hushed, receiving an average rating of 8.1/10 on rotten tomatoes. It is unconventional as a horror movie and while it possesses the hallmark jump scares, it holds more at heart than most of this genre carry.
As a brief synopsis, the film takes place in the year 2020, and the population has been devastated by blind alien creatures that hunt based on sound. Because of the sensitive hearing of the aliens, everyone must remain quiet, anything louder than a footstep could alert them of your presence. The Abbott family struggles to survive this future. A father, mother, and their two children. The mother is pregnant and will soon give birth — worrisome when everyone is trying to stay quiet.
If we are being perfectly candid, the plot is less interesting than the effects it creates. The general lack of dialogue throughout of the movie requires the actors to emote, removing the crutch of declarations to convey emotional gravity. The story is told through looks, occasional sign language, and action. Expertly using the craft of “show don’t tell,” the viewer learns about the characters and the world primarily through the activities of the family and the action on screen.
Finishing the film leaves you counting the sounds around you, bringing awareness to the little noises we take for granted everyday. What if there was a cost to the sound of a game piece moving across the board? Silence for most of us is a foreign proposition, not even entering our thoughts as difficult because it hasn’t entered our minds at all.
What if your next words were your last?
Considering our last words is an uncomfortable thought for anyone, for some this weight leads to a humorous and mundane remark, with others it is a taxing ordeal that keeps them up at night. Within the world of A Quiet Place every word spoken could be their last. This inherent gravity gives the characters a greater urgency and importance to their every sound and step.
It’s not very controversial to say that the 21st. Century has devalued what we say. Every thought, every stupid remark, can not only be heard by those in our immediate radius, but by hundreds of thousands on the internet. This instinctive expression doesn’t do the value of our words any favors, leading to an abundance of things said, but nothing worthwhile expressed.
It’s a joke amongst some of my friends that, “Nothing important happens on SnapChat.” It’s a sentiment decided based on exposure to the high volume of random stupidity the Social Media app perpetuates. This opinion however, has been justifiably challenged once or twice, based on my own usage of the app. Whenever I use it to communicate, I try to make the messages meaningful, or at least to have a purpose. It’s not the medium of expression (SnapChat) that’s the problem, it’s the quality and lack of meaning to what’s being said.
The modern methods of communication, the apps we have in plenty, are tools to be utilized. They can be used to share words and messages of meaning, to demonstrate care and consideration for those who you call friend. Don’t think that humor is to be underrated, it has a great deal of value, it can rescue the distraught in times of need and strengthen the weary at heart, but not all that is thought needs to be, or should be, expressed.
Once a word is uttered it cannot be taken back, no amount of pleading, begging or cursing can change it. Discretion, once a virtue highly praised, has fallen out of favor for what the instinctual speech we see as the highlight of Social Media. If we do not choose our words before we say them, their interpretation will be chosen for us, or worse: their meaning will be taken from passion in which they were spoken.
This is a skill that requires patience, and discipline. In the heat of anger it is far too easy to let a stray thought become a word, spreading at the speed of sound and raising the tension.
There are real consequences to our words, and they affect more than those who hear them. A Quiet Place illustrates this idea dramatically, with each noise made an opportunity for your demise. Once a word is released it cannot be taken back, you have just lowered your chance of survival to an absolute minimum.
Words are the verbal expression of thoughts and ideas, made manifest and shared in ways that even action, for all it’s glory and power cannot. Actions can be ambiguous, ask any teenager about their latest crush for proof. Words, clear words, leave little to the imagination when they are frankly communicated.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” It’s a sentiment that we all wish was true, but words don’t affect the body, they affect the heart and mind. The Proverb truly says, “A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”
Our words have power, to wound and to heal, to tear down and build up. There’s a scene in A Quiet Place, where the son and father are catching fish near a loud waterfall, essentially blinding their presence to the aliens. The son asks his father if he blames the sister for their littlest brother dying, since she was the closest at the time of the death. The father replies that he doesn’t and that would be ridiculous. Their following conversation is illuminating:
Son: Do you still love her?
Father: Of course I do.
Son: You should tell her.
It’s cliche to say that father’s don’t tell their children that they love them often enough, and it really does extend beyond the role of parent and child. It is easy for us to take those around us for granted, never admitting that we care, trusting that our actions will speak for themselves. My father has a infamous phrase that has earned him his fair share of derision, “Of course I love you, if it changes I’ll let you know — If I don’t say anything, everything’s alright.”
Just like the daughter, we may see evidence that we are loved and cared for. Everything within the world in which we live tells us we are loved, but we never actually hear those words. We need to be told by those closest to us, “you are valued by me.”
The Value of Words
Thankfully we do not live in a world where our spoken words can lead to being attacked by noise hunting demons from outer space. That however, doesn’t excuse a careless use of what we say. Language, spoken words, are gifts to communicate with one another. Using it we share ideas, feelings, and expressions of the heart in ways that action, for all it’s glory, cannot imitate. It is a tool, and it can be handled poorly or purposefully.
Guard your words so that they cannot betray you, speak to others the encouragement they both need and deserve. If we do this, maybe we can recover the value in the words we speak.