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A Quiet Passion

Cover Media logo Cover Media 13/04/2017

British director Terence Davies wrote the script for A Quiet Passion, his biopic about prolific but reclusive poet Emily Dickinson with Cynthia Nixon in mind.

Leaving her portrayal of Miranda in Sex and the City far behind, it's a role that fits the actress, long considered to be the best of the raucous bunch, surprisingly well.

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Emily was a reclusive poet, with fewer than a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems being published during her lifetime. Her work was considered unconventional and was usually altered significantly by the publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time. Most of her work wasn't discovered until after her death in 1886, when her sister Lavinia found her cache of writing.

The film follows the young opinionated Emily (Emma Bell) from her brief time at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - she's not keen on the religious indoctrination - to her later years, whereby Cynthia makes her appearance.

Despite being oppressed by her religious, politician father Edward, as played by Keith Carradine, he allows her to write her poetry late at night and she is published anonymously in the Springfield Republican.

Davies' movie focuses on Emily's relationships with her family including her doting sister Lavinia (Jennifer Ehle) and her friend Vryling Buffam (Catherine Bailey) who provides some much-needed humour, as she lives a reclusive existence at the family home.

Cynthia sinks into the role of Emily, leaving all traces of her behind of Sex and the City's Miranda behind, as she delivers the lines of the wordy script with passion. She gives a commanding performance as the questioning poet who spent her life questioning gender roles and religion, preferring poetry over passion. The relationship between Emily and her sister is a study in contrasts, and provides the light and shade needed in this period piece. Lavinia shines a light on the warmer parts of Emily's personality, which the writer sometimes struggles to see herself.

A Quiet Passion is a quiet film, with strong performances that will draw you in, even if you're not a fan of Emily Dickinson.

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