A Quiet Place: Day One

New York City poet Sam (Lupita Nyong'o) is unhappy spending her last painful, cancer-ridden days in a hospice, when she’s coaxed into a field trip back into the city by her nurse Reuben (Alex Wolff) with the promise of pizza.  Impatient with the choice of entertainment, a marionette show, Sam wanders outside with her therapy cat Frodo (Nico and Schnitzel) and ends up walking right into the chaos, terror and devastation that is “A Quiet Place: Day One.”

Laura's Review: B

With "Pig" writer/director Michael Sarnoski stepping in for franchise creator John Krasinski (who produces and has a story by co-credit), don’t expect to get any new background on the death angels who invade earth, killing any living being that makes a sound.  Instead, Sarnoski and his affecting lead actress take us through the experience of living our last during a global catastrophe and finding comfort in those final moments in the companionship of a cat and the care of a stranger.

While there are several suspenseful sequences involving the noise-seeking creatures who plummet to earth in droves after streaking across the sky like a meteor shower, they are almost incidental here, a plot device to drive our human and feline protagonists together.  In fact, there is far more horror conveyed in the initial attack where smoke shrouds exactly what is going on as ash falls upon humanity in a clear reference to 9/11 than there is later viewing replicated CGI creatures swarm across buildings like a horde of indistinguishable, animated spiders.  After a brief respite that reunites Sam with Reuben, only to have him snatched away before her horrified eyes, what Sarnoski does instead is completely invest us in the survival of Sam and Frodo, the latter frequently becoming separated from his mistress for his own adventures.

During one of Frodo’s solo excursions, he sits and stares into the eyes of Eric (Joseph Quinn, "Overlord"), an Englishman in a suit panicking as he surfaces from the waters of a flooded subway and the cat’s demeanor gives Eric something to latch onto.  Following Frodo leads Eric to Sam and although she tries to convince him to head to South Street Seaport, where military loudspeakers have instructed civilians to go for evacuation by boat as the creatures cannot swim, Eric appears to find more comfort in Sam’s company, and continues to follow her like a stray dog.

That description is at the root of Quinn’s portrayal here, his puppy dog eyes and separation anxiety marking him a clear heir to Frodo’s therapeutic benefits.  After following Sam back to her apartment, where she hopes to find some remaining pain killing drugs, Eric will exhibit unconditional love and loyalty by venturing out to find a pharmacy, another opportunity for tension-filled bonding with Frodo.

That is prefaced by an empathetically evocative moment between the two when Eric discovers a book of poetry written by Sam and reads a piece aloud about encroaching death, something which has become universal but is distinctly Sam’s experience (and quite the counterpoint to the piece she’d read in group laced with scatological sarcasm).  He’ll also respond to Sam’s blackly humorous determination to get to Patsy’s Pizzeria in Harlem, a place that holds special memories of her jazz pianist father.

The film belongs to Nyong'o, who creates an indelible character, giving the film an underlying sadness, a symbol of lost humanity.  Yet Sarnoski leaves us with hope, “A Quiet Place Part II’s” Henri (Djimon Hounsou) there to give Eric a final assurance.  And then there’s Frodo, a marvel of feline cinematic presence and another symbol - of calm, confident and quiet composure.

Paramount Pictures releases "A Quiet Place: Day One" in theaters on 6/28/24.