Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Ten Best Films of 2017: #5

Terence Davies' Emily Dickinson biopic "A Quiet Passion" features a nomination-worthy performance by Cynthia Nixon as the belle of Amherst, devoted sister (to Jennifer Ehle) and daughter (to Keith Carradine). Anything but stuffy or starchy, this is a full-bodied study of a woman, made with wit and, especially in the first half, laugh-out-loud humor (Catherine Bailey enchants as the naughty, ahead-of-her-time Miss Vryling Buffam). As in "The Deep Blue Sea," Davies evinces his mastery of light and darkness; where so many directors aim for the crepuscular glow of dusk, the hours between twilight and nightfall, when just a hint of illumination suffuses the house, belong to Davies as to no other. Also as in that film, which made my 2012 top-ten list, you may find yourself thinking deeper thoughts and feeling deeper emotions than you realized lay within you. Davies also makes use of the poetry itself - as read by Nixon - as effectively as any film since 2013's "Reaching for the Moon." What emerges is a portrait of a brilliant mind that rarely failed to get in the way of its owner's happiness.

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