'A Quiet Place: Day One' Is a Muted, Meditative Spin on the Series

Directed by Michael Sarnoski

Starring Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff and Djimon Hounsou

BY Rachel HoPublished Jun 27, 2024


Michael Sarnoski's directorial debut, Pig, cleverly hid a meditation on grief beneath a John Wick-ian veneer, creating a deeply felt, poetic piece of cinema that Exclaim! named one of the best films of 2021. In his sophomore effort, Sarnoski attempts a similar trick, but this time with the challenge of using an established story rather than a world of his own creation.

Expanding upon the brief glimpse of day one that A Quiet Place Part II provided, A Quiet Place: Day One brings us into New York City, where, as far as we know, the mayhem began. Lupita Nyong'o leads the film as Sam, a terminally ill cancer patient living in a hospice who ventures into the city with other patients to take in a matinee. Before the play finishes though, meteor-like objects hail down, clouding the city in a thick coating of dust while mysterious creatures begin attacking humans.

As New Yorkers make their way down to the south side where the military has evacuation plans are underway, Sam decides to venture north to Harlem. Along the way, she encounters Eric (Joseph Quinn), an English law student, who accompanies her and her cat Frodo, journeying in the wrong direction, navigating the fraught circumstances together.

Nyong'o and Quinn are an excellent pairing, speaking volumes with their eyes and facial expressions. In spite of the silent rules of the Quiet Place universe, we're given an impressive amount of backstory and insight into both characters, each providing a different perspective on the situation.

Eric reflects on his presence in New York City as connected with his desire to make his parents proud. Throughout the film, Eric succumbs to moments of debilitating shell-shock, almost as if paralyzed by his idea of what life in NYC was meant to be. Contrasting to this open-ended feeling of "what should have been," Nyong'o's Sam is at peace with her imminent end, creatures or not. Each decision she makes serves a purpose — one that is small in the grand scheme of things, but all-encompassing for her.

Day One leans less on the horror stylings of its predecessors, instead spending its time on the relationship between Sam and Eric and their individual humanity within the film. By placing their stories in parallel, Sarnoski, who also serves as the writer of the film, delivers a nuanced approach to the larger horror story being told. Amidst the chaos are two people grappling with mortality from opposite ends of the equation. These reflective notes don't land a particularly devastating gut-punch, but they do lend the film an unanticipated texture.

Arguably, Sarnoski's way into the Quiet Place world isn't what many of us expected. Given that it's a dedicated prequel, audiences wouldn't be at fault for thinking the film would answer questions around where these creatures came from, what they are, and how humans knew not to make noise around them. Day One doesn't offer any of these explanations. When the aliens first touch down into the city, Sam is knocked unconscious and, when she awakens, she's signalled to remain quiet. Announcements from the military advise people to be silent and head for water as these creatures cannot swim. Everything is presented as fact as opposed to a discovery.

Perhaps this keeps the door open for the franchise to continue exploring the quiet apocalypse, maybe from outside the United States. Or perhaps the finer point to these films is that these details simply don't matter. They didn't matter to Sam, Eric, the Abbotts or Emmett in the face of death — and, truly, if we found ourselves in their position, the "why" would matter far less than the "how to survive."

(Paramount Pictures)

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