Today many people associate Christian values in the cinema with films directed toward Christian audiences like I Can Only Imagine, God's Not Dead 3, and Paul, Apostle of Christ. However, many of the most profound and Christian themes in the theater are found in movies that are not targeted toward Christians at all. And you can include in that group the powerful new horror thriller A Quiet Place.
The film opens with a family searching an abandoned drugstore for supplies. It soon becomes clear that we are in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Some terrible event has occurred and devastated society, but it isn't yet clear what it is. However, one feature of the scene stands out: the silence. Everyone is using sign language and proceeding with the utmost care not to make a sound. Before the final opening title credit has appeared on the screen, it becomes clear why.
While many post-apocalyptic films attribute the carnage to a microscopic pathogen or a terrifying zombie virus, in this case, we discover that the problem is an alien creature, one that (as we later surmise) invaded the planet approximately three months before. And here's the terrifying bit: it hunts by sound. As the movie poster warns, if they hear you, they hunt you.
I know what you're thinking: a post-apocalyptic film in which people are hunted by killer aliens? What's Christian about that?
Good question! Let's start with one core Christian concern: family values. As I said, the film opens with a family in a drugstore. It turns out that they are retrieving supplies for a sick child. And from that point on we follow this family through the film.
Not since the 2009 film The Road has post-apocalyptic desolation been illumined by such deep and powerful family bonds. For starters, there is clearly a deep love shared between the father (John Krasinski) and the mother (Emily Blunt). And that love comes fully into view with an undeniable chemistry when they slow dance (with headphones) to Neil Young's "Harvest Moon." (Incidentally, the actors Krasinski and Blunt are married in real life.)
Then there is the bonding of the father and son on a trip to gather food as well as the welcome of a new baby under the most unthinkable of circumstances. But above all, there is a powerful moment of searing reconciliation between the father and his beloved daughter. Later, as the daughter views her father's legacy of love laid out on a workbench, she comes to realize the depth of his love for her.
To sum up, A Quiet Place offers one of the most powerful and challenging depictions of familial love and commitment in recent cinema.
Family-values are consistent with Christianity, but they are not explicitly Christian. Are there any explicitly Christian themes? While Christian themes are not overt in A Quiet Place, they are definitely present. For example, the family prays at the beginning of their meal.
However, the most powerful moment comes when the father becomes a Christ-figure. The Christ-figure is a common literary technique in which a story draws parallels between the biblical Jesus and a protagonist in the story, most commonly in terms of the theme of reconciling sacrifice.
The moment of sacrifice comes when the father's children are being attacked by aliens. In that instant, he makes eye contact with his daughter at which point he tells her that he loves her and that he has always loved her. This is a revelation because the daughter had long believed her father was angry with her. She now realizes that the separation she had sensed was of her own making. It turns out that her father had always loved her deeply (a fact that becomes clear later when she discovers what he had left behind on the workbench).
Here's the bottom line. A Quiet Place is a horror thriller. Folks who enjoy that genre of film will likely enjoy it. Those who do not (like my daughter!) should probably avoid it. But the fact remains that it is a powerful tale which is consistent with Christian valuation of the family and which offers a powerful analogy of atonement in the loving father who acts as a Christ-figure in laying down his life for his children. As such, the film reminds us that God is at work not only in avowedly Christian films which are marketed to an explicitly Christian audience. Jesus can be found in many other places as well, including (as it turns out) the post-apocalyptic silence of a bucolic, alien-infested farm.