The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion ‘A Quiet Place’ isn’t just pro-life. It makes us understand what being pro-life truly means.

This essay discusses plot points of “A Quiet Place,” which is in theaters now; as such, beware of spoilers going forward.

It’s a fair question: In a world where making the slightest noise spells near-instant, incredibly gruesome death at the hands of aliens who hunt via hearing, why on earth would you get pregnant?

This is the most common quibble with “A Quiet Place,” the hit horror film that has earned critical and audience acclaim in roughly equal measures. The creature feature features creatures that have killed huge swaths of the population; virtually the only people we see in the movie are the Abbott family, though we know others lurk about. The alien invasion has forced humanity underground and off the airwaves, as the smallest sound can serve as a signal for the murderous monsters.

The Abbotts themselves have survived, in part, because they have a natural advantage: fluency in sign language. Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt), as well as oldest son Marcus (Noah Jupe), picked up the skill because their daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), is deaf. In the film’s opening moments, we witness the deadliness of the Abbotts’ enemies when a toy held by youngest son Beau (Cade Woodward) emits a series of beeps and boops. He dies.

Despite this hard-earned education, Lee and Evelyn decide to keep living. And loving. A title card announces a gap in the time of the film that stretches a little under a year. When we see Evelyn again, she is pregnant. Very pregnant. There’s a baby coming soon, and with it, danger. Without getting too graphic — this is a family blog in a family newspaper, after all — the birthing process is not the quietest of activities. And newborns aren’t the quietest of creatures.

“A Quiet Place” is a pro-life movie in a deeper sense than we usually mean when we highlight “pro-life movies.” Such discussions often revolve around films such as “Juno” or “Knocked Up” in which unexpected pregnancies serve as little more than plot points. Discussions about abortion in these movies are generally beside the point; the reason the characters don’t get rid of their kids in utero is because, if they did, there wouldn’t be a movie. Or there’d be a different movie.

But there’s no reason for Evelyn to be pregnant in this film, really. You don’t need to heighten the stakes (they can’t really get any higher), and you don’t need to heighten the danger (you try living silently for a day). Krasinski (who in addition to directing has a screenwriting credit) and Bryan Woods and Scott Beck (who wrote the initial screenplay) have made a choice here. The movie is pro-life, sure. But it transcends the narrow, ideological, partisan sense that term has taken on. “A Quiet Place” is more philosophically minded; it’s pro-life in the sense that it is pro-living life.

Merely surviving is not enough. Merely surviving is empty. Merely surviving is not what living a life to the fullest is all about. A life without family is sad; a life without family is a life without a future. Evelyn and Lee have to demonstrate to Regan and Marcus that there is a reason to go on — and the only reason any of us has to go on, really, is to ensure the propagation of the species. The paucity of dialogue required by the film’s conceit, and the confidence with which Krasinski shoots the picture, guides us through a life fully lived: We see the efforts undertaken to muffle a crying baby without killing it, how to live in a world where sound can be deadly. Far from looking horrible, it looks homey. Difficult, yes, but filled with love.

“A Quiet Place” is about what it means to be alive, what it means to be human, what it means to continue to exist in a world that has made being human virtually impossible. A film about the importance of passing on what you know and what you are to the next generation.

Would it have been easier for Evelyn and Lee to avoid the pregnancy altogether or to terminate it once it had begun? Should they have gotten rid of the child, perhaps one they didn’t want, because it would have made their life safer? Maybe. But what would be the point of living at all in a world with no children, no future?

“Who are we if we can’t protect them?” asks Evelyn (Eve?), mother of the first generation of children in this terrifying, but survivable, world. But protection means more than simple safety; it means giving them a reason to live. A purpose. And that purpose is life.