A Quiet Passion Cynthia Nixon Jennifer Ehle

A biopic bristling with emotion

Cynthia Nixon, far removed from the world of Sex and the City, turns out to be perfectly cast as reclusive 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson in Terence Davies’ sensitive, finely judged biopic. Dickinson famously led a confined and sheltered existence; Davies, equally notoriously, can be austere and gloomy. Put them together and the resulting movie would surely be painfully dull?

Far from it: A Quiet Passion bristles with emotion. It is also surprisingly funny, particularly in those early scenes when Nixon’s Emily and her free-spirited friend Vryling Buffam (Catherine Bailey) exchange witty sallies right out of Oscar Wilde. Things turn more melancholy later on, as Emily shuns visitors and becomes reclusive, beset by illness and loss. Yet the film pulses with feeling throughout. Nixon doesn’t court our sympathy. Her Emily is prickly, uncompromising and difficult. All the same, she convinces us of the surging emotions behind Dickinson’s strange and enigmatic poetry.

Certificate 12A. Runtime 125 mins. Director Terence Davies

A Quiet Passion available on Blu-ray & DVD from Thunderbird Releasing.