Within the first five minutes, Quiet City evokes the awkward and frank relationship of the two leads in Before Sunrise. While the stories of the two films share common ground, their approach diverges in very interesting ways. As one might expect from a smaller feature, Quiet City is a bit more challenging, less bound to keep a certain pace and has a propensity to linger on moments that Before Sunrise passes.
For those who have seen neither film, Quiet City centers on the a chance meeting of two young souls, in the case of Quiet City, Jamie (Erin Fischer) and Charlie (Cris Lankenau). Jamie is an out of town visitor who is looking for a friend who isn’t very responsible and she end up spending the night and the next day with Charlie as they search for her friend, wander around the city and talk about very little of consequence.
It’s that last part that is the greatest divergence from Before Sunrise. While a lot of Before Sunrise is built around conversations about serious matters discussed in a frank and open matter, Quiet City is more about letting these two characters simply hang out with each other and not having either force much of anything on the other. It’s more about their actions than their words, their behaviors than their thoughts.
Therefore, there’s very little guiding Quiet City. It’s a film with little pretense for theme, not much thought on life and conversation that isn’t trying to engage the audience in some sort of deep insights from these two characters. It simply wants to observe them, watch their relationship unfold, not trying to speak to any universals or traits of humanity.
However, while this might sound like a remote experience, the film is very intimate with its characters. Most of the film consists of close-ups of the two leads. In a city as bustling and crowded as Brooklyn, the film blinds out as many characters as possible. In fact, it’s a long time before the film shows any character that isn’t Jamie or Charlie.
This personal angle shows how much these two strangers share with each other in a very short time through little more than the physical proximity the two allow each other exist in with each other. The film flirts with romantic and sexual notions, but almost undercuts and diffuses such situations. Yes, there is certainly an attraction, but it’s subdued, controlled and only a whisper of it can be heard.
It’s a narrow segment of life, a glimpse of what is simply a small blip in time. Beyond it, there’s little sense of who these characters are, what they do, how their everyday lives play out, who else in their life is influential. And yet, in that complete absence of context, the beauty of the simplest of human relationships emerges, without pretense, without prejudice, without complex.
In the grand scheme of life, the universe and everything, Quiet City might seem like the narrowest, contrived and least insightful look into this great cosmos through which the drama of humanity plays out. But the greatest moments of human life may not be found amidst the noise of everyday life, but in the silence of reflection and sometimes it takes the strangest of circumstances to make that happen.
© 2011 James Blake Ewing