A Quiet Passion ★★½

Davies' characters have often expressed themselves in a stylised way, so it's hard to say why the constant stream of epigrams is so irritating here ("Cherish your ignorance, you never know when you might need it", etc etc) - but maybe the artificiality used to be a working-class terseness providing protection against a hard life whereas here it just seems smug, esp. since half the epigrams seem to be about the foolishness of religion and sexism, with occasional mentions for slavery; it's a shame to see Davies' sympathy for the underdog calcifying into political correctness. Emily Dickinson is a modern ("My soul is my own"), even her emotional reticence coded as rebellion against double standards; "We were trying to be ironic," she quips after curtseying delicately, anticipating post-modern culture by 100 years. The film gets more interesting as she grows into a bitter old eccentric, driven to intolerance by an excess of integrity, her rejection of the world arguably a form of cowardice, and it does have some great bits like the silhouetted stranger in the night, or the way the camera waits anxiously with Emily to see if the pastor will turn out to be a kindred spirit (he will!) - though she's also increasingly a victim (Davies too has often been inclined to self-pity, at least in interviews), even beyond Ms. Nixon adding to her impressive death throes from James White: "It's easy to be stoic when no-one wants what you have to offer..."

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