Asset Locker

A Quiet Passion

UK Release Date Friday, 07 April 2017
Certificate TBC
Director Terence Davies
Cast Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle, Duncan Duff, Keith Carradine, Jodhi May
Distributor Thunderbird Releasing


Amherst, 1840s. Deeply unhappy at boarding school and frustrated by the evangelistic teachings, Emily Dickinson rebels. Her Father takes her home, accompanied by her brother Austin and sister Vinnie. Already a passionate writer, young Emily sends her poetry to a local paper, but the editor is condescending. This is the first in a string of rejections that lead to a lifetime of frustration.

Several years on, Emily is still passionate about her poetry. Vinnie introduces her to Miss Vryling Buffam, an outspoken and vivacious socialite. Miss ‘VB’ not only shocks Emily but begins to influence her too; Emily soon upsets the local Pastor and her father by refusing to kneel in prayer.

Meanwhile, Austin has taken a bride, Susan Gilbert. The pair move in next door and have a child who Emily dotes over. As the Civil War looms, Mr. Dickinson forbids Austin from enlisting, paying for a substitute to fight in his place. Austin, desperate to do his duty, is furious.

Emily is distraught when Miss VB forgoes her independence and marries. However, Emily is soon distracted by the arrival of Reverend Wadsworth. He is thoughtful, handsome, a beautiful orator - and happily married. Emily plucks up the courage to share her poetry with him, and is delighted that he is impressed with her work, but is left distraught when he leaves for San Francisco. Vinnie chastises Emily, shocked by her attraction to a married man.

Emily’s distress over Wadsworth is soon over-shadowed when her Father dies. She is inconsolable, secluding herself and insisting on constantly wearing white. Her health begins to deteriorate; the doctor diagnoses the incurable Bright’s disease. The charismatic Mabel Loomis Todd and her husband come to visit. Austin’s familiarity with Mrs. Todd shocks Emily, especially after she catches the pair in a sordid embrace. Emily is scathingly critical, antagonizing Austin. Austin and Emily clash, provoking each other time and again. Austin reads aloud from an article denouncing women’s writing, deeply upsetting Emily.

Mother has a stroke, which proves fatal, distressing Emily further. Vinnie, Austin and Susan are by Emily’s side as she passes away.

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