We Are What They Grow Beyond: Review of A Quiet Place II

Hey friends, and happy (almost) summer! In the next few months I want to work on non-fiction pieces and maybe some short fiction too. I’ve been writing more poetry this spring, which has been lovely, but I want to use these school-free months to write some longer-form creative stuff. Hopefully some of that will show up on here.

As a first offering, here’s a short review of A Quiet Place: Part II. I posted it on letterboxd (which you guys should get), which leads me to a question: would you like to see more book and/or movie reviews here? I tend to leave those on goodreads or letterboxd but if you’d like to read some of the more eloquent ones (since I write plenty of stream-of-consciousness bullet points too lol) on here, I’m happy to oblige. If you prefer I stick to poetry, that’s chill too. Thanks as always for making this little corner of the internet a happy, thoughtful place. ❤

Oh yeah, and spoilers ahead.

4/5 stars

This was the first movie I saw in a theater since the Big Bad Rona, and it was a worthy welcome back.  No, it doesn’t have the novelty of the first (we already know how the monsters work and how to stop them) but I actually liked it a bit better. My biggest complaint is that it could run for 20-30 more minutes and wrap up everything that I’m assuming part 3 will tackle. Even so, the themes and characters in this one shone like a beacon the top of a silo.

The end closes with a powerful set of parallel scenes that epitomize what I love about  this sequel. Atop a broadcast tower, Regan grabs a pole and advances toward a monster while Emmett (whom I love—great addition) looks on, slumped against the wall, legs bleeding. In a factory basement, Marcus faces down another monster with gun in hand while his mother clutches his newborn sibling behind him, her legs also torn by a monster. The parallel is obvious, and the contrast between their locations is poignant: 

Wherever you are, the monsters will find you. And wherever you are, you have to fight for those you love.

In the first movie, we see the whole family wrestling with guilt over the loss of their youngest. It was a fascinating and important exploration but something about it also felt slightly unsatisfying. It seemed that most of their choices, parent and child alike, came from a misguided burden of shame. It almost tore the family apart. Although it didn’t in the end, and although I know this is a realistic portrayal of grief and guilt, it made for less-than-satisfying motivations behind the characters’ actions.

The sequel is different. Evelyn sets out alone, so alone, to save her remaining children. She does not seem to carry guilt but only an increased purpose, all the passion and determination of what she said to Lee in the first movie—“who are we if we can’t save them?”—but with none of the crippling shame. She is no longer trying to prove her identity as a good mother but is rather living out of that identity already realized.

Before I get to Regan and Marcus, let me note that yes, there’s a sense in which Regan guilt-trips Emmett (“Now you can”). But he is in the emotional stage that the whole family was in the first movie. It was so cathartic and meaningful to see them having learned their lesson and then teaching it to him. Maybe he could have saved his family, and maybe he couldn’t have. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that now he saves those who are around him.

What the Abbots learned, and what they teach Emmett, is that guilt alone is not salvific. Guilt can fester into self-destruction and calloused cruelty to those who still need you. 

The theme of the first movie is guilt, but that theme is not complete without this movie, without the portrayal of growth beyond guilt.

Guilt can fester but it can also fall to the earth like a seed, die, and be reborn into sacrificial love and courage.

This is what we see in those final scenes with Regan and Marcus, and it’s so beautiful. In both movies, they make mistakes. But this time, they aren’t reliant on their parents to save them from the consequences. This isn’t to say that their parents (or parental figures, in the case of Emmett) aren’t important—without them, neither child would reach the triumphant climax that they do. But in the end, the children have grown into the legacy of their parents. They have breathed in the courage of their mother and the sacrifice of their father and now pour it out on others. Evelyn and Lee did save them, in more ways than one.

Regan and Marcus’ motivations aren’t guilt over their mistakes. They are motivated by love—love for their newborn sibling, whose name we don’t even know yet; love for strangers on an island whom they might be able to save. They have taken up the mantle of their parents and proven with their actions that Emmett was wrong: there are people worth saving. (His arc of realizing this is beautiful too. And the storytelling payoff with the “dive” sign? Absolute gold.)

Like Emily St. John’s genius apocalyptic novel Station Eleven, this movie argues that survival is insufficient. It offers a horrific picture of what a just-survive mindset does to people with the feral colony on the docks. If all you live for is to take your own next breath, it’s better to die. Lee and Evelyn understood that and modeled it in their sacrificial care for their children, and now it’s Regan and Marcus’ turn to lead the next generation growing up in a world steeped in death and fear. 

It reminds me of what Yoda says to Luke in The Last Jedi: “We are what they grow beyond.” I have always loved that quote. No one who lives well does so without an example, and for those of us who are blessed to have good examples, what better way can we thank them than to emulate them?

Legacy may be “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see,” as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton says, but although Lee never got to see who his children become, at least Evelyn did.  I look forward to the next movie (even though I think plot-wise it’s unnecessary) just to see Regan and Marcus continue to wear their parents’ mantel and defend their mother as she has defended them.

3 comments

  1. I’m ambivalent about whether you should post more movie reviews. Although I rarely watch the same genres as you do, your reviews are always insightful and worth reading! I would definitely appreciate more book reviews, since I’m always looking for new, good books to read (=

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dearest Abby,

    I am so glad that you are spending your summer doing your excellent writing. I am sure that makes you happy. I hope you are also able to go into the city and do things that you like now that it is reopening. I am so glad that you were able to go to West Point and be with Jackie. I hope you will be able to go to the dance at Camp Buckner if they have it.

    All my love,

    Grammy

    Liked by 2 people

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