A Quiet Passion

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Not recommended under 13; parental guidance to 15 (mature themes and some distressing scenes. Lacks interest for younger children)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for A Quiet Passion
  • a review of A Quiet Passion completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 June 2017.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended for this age group due to lack of interest, mature themes and some distressing images.
Children aged 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to mature themes and some distressing scenes.
Children aged 16 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: A Quiet Passion
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 125 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon) returns to her family home after spending a difficult period away at school where she was persecuted for her rebellious spirit and outspoken nature. Writing poetry is her one solace; her way of dealing with the pain and different experiences that life throws at her. She shares her poems with her parents (Joanna Bacon and Keith Carradine), her sister Vinnie (Jennifer Ehle), her brother Austin (Duncan Duff) and later with her sister-in-law Susan (Jodhi May). Eventually a few of them are published in a small newspaper.

Emily’s poems go largely unnoticed as it is widely believed that women “cannot create permanent treasures of literature” and Emily is left to wonder if she will ever amount to anything or do something worthwhile with her life. She watches both her parents die, sees friends leave her small community and dearly loved ministers move on and slowly, as she ages, her health deteriorates and she withdraws to her room at the top of the stairs. As the years go by she becomes more and more reclusive and gradually more embittered with a world that refuses to embrace her poetry or to see her for who she could be. Sadly it takes her death for the world to realize what it has lost.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Gender equality; death of family members; slavery; war

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Graphic images of civil war battlefields are shown in the film, including very realistic images of fallen soldiers and close up shots of dead bodies.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Emily suffers a series of painful seizures. She writhes on the ground or shakes uncontrollably on her bed. The final seizure is extremely graphic. She gasps for breath, her face is distorted and unnatural, her eyes are bulging, her whole body is stiff and her hands keep violently reaching out as if grasping for help that never comes.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Emily’s mother suffers a stroke while alone in her room. She suffers silently and painfully and then dies in the arms of her daughters, both of whom are devastated.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement


Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Emily asks Susan if “that part” of married life is really so terrible. Susan replies, “I do my duty” and says that her husband “is tender and yielding to my reservations.”
  • Vinnie tells Emily of a rumour that a certain man has a venereal disease.
  • Emily and Austin have a number of heated arguments about Austin’s infidelity.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some partial nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • During a dance a fair bit of cleavage is shown due to the style of the dresses worn.
  • Emily follows what appear to be the sounds of two people making love and walks in on Austin who is on a couch laying on top of another woman and kissing her passionately.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • An aunt sips a glass of currant wine for “medicinal purposes.”
  • Emily is given chloroform by the doctor on her deathbed to try and calm her down.

Coarse language

Nothing of concern

In a nutshell

A quiet passion is a period drama telling the sad story of a talented woman who was largely unrecognised in her lifetime. It features beautiful sets and fine details. The acting is superb and while younger audiences may not be able to follow much of the dialogue or storyline the film will be better appreciated by the mature audiences for whom it was intended. It is not recommended for children under 13 and parental guidance is recommended for the 13 to 15 age group.

The main messages from this movie are to be true to yourself and to follow your passion regardless of the convictions of those around you.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include kindness, loyalty, humour and perseverance

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of gender equality and the ways that things have changed, or not changed, over time. The notion that women cannot do or create anything worthwhile and that they are merely decorous as opposed to useful was a common sentiment throughout the film and while society has made great progress there is still much work to be done. To help illustrate this, parents may wish to use the example of Emily Dickenson who spoke her mind and who used her voice for those who could not find their own