A Quiet Passion

A slight, almost theatrical biography of Emily Dickinson as the tempest in a teapot for 19th century polite society that is loaded with director Terence Davies’s brash dialogue between the poet and her neighbor, Vryling Buffam (Catherine Bailey), who sneer and bristle over philosophical whimsy and male attention. As Dickinson, Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) avoids fostering modern day feminism onto the Grand Madam of Misery, since much of the paternalism of the time suffices, but with lines such as “for each ecstatic instant, we must in anguish pay,” or “women should only aspire to be younger than their waistline,” it’s evident that this pre-Dorothy Parker prose is as much a foundling on the right doorstep as intended. Literally kicked out of the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary for being more concerned for the sovereignty of her soul than, as she puts it, “suffering an acute case of evangelicalism,” Emily would grow into somewhat of an embarrassment as she unleashes condemnation towards deception on a world that remains indifferent to her published poems where she remains stoic. “It’s easy to be stoic, when no one wants what you have to offer,” is her rebuttal to both art and romantic encounters as she heads towards abandonment, accompanied by a prevailing sense of the lack of accomplishment. When suggested that her reward will be posthumous, she replies, “a reputation for those who when living weren’t worth remembering!” Real woo-bait, this one!