A Quiet Place is a US drama/horror film from actor-director John Krasinski who also stars with his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, as a married couple with children living in extraordinary circumstances. Earth has been invaded by deadly alien creatures which are blind but possess hyper-sensitive hearing, enabling them to pick up on the slightest noise. As a consequence, the family must go about their lives in near total silence, communicating only in sign language at which they are all adept due to their eldest child being profoundly deaf. Having already endured one tragedy, the family's precarious survival depends on constant, silent vigilance.
In March 2017, the film came to the BBFC for an advice viewing, which is a service provided by the BBFC as a stage prior to formal classification. An advice viewing informs industry customers of the age rating a work is likely to receive and makes recommendations for any realistic changes that may be required in order for a work to achieve the preferred rating. In the case of A Quiet Place, the request for a 12A category which would have approximated the film's PG-13 rating in the US by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for 'terror and some bloody images'.
The advice viewing was carried out by a team of two Compliance Managers who, using the BBFC's Classification Guidelines and citing precedents, determined that the film was likely to receive a 15 rating for the sustained and intense threat throughout. They informed the company that changes in the form of cuts or reductions would not address the tonal elements of the threat and horror sufficiently in terms of the film's suitability at 12A. It is occasionally the case with some film genres, particularly horror, that BBFC decisions differ from those of the MPAA. The company accepted the BBFC's advice and submitted the film for formal classification with a 15 request, and the viewing was carried out by a Compliance Officer. The film was duly rated 15 with the BBFCinsight of 'sustained threat'.
The film contains scenes in which the characters go about their business ensuring that they make as little noise as possible, whether searching for supplies in an abandoned supermarket, at mealtimes, or being outside, using resources and strategies they have developed over time. There is tension in these scenes and the sense that danger is only one sound away escalates and becomes more intense as the film progresses. The strategies do not always work and there are also scenes in which the characters are discovered by the aliens who stalk them as they desperately seek hiding places in their home or out in a cornfield.
Fear and distress are displayed in these situations and much of the threat is targeted at vulnerable characters, particularly the children and the mother, who is about to give birth to another child. While the BBFC Guidelines at 12A allow for moderate threat and horror, the sustained nature of the threat in the film invests it with a dark, ominous tone that registered too strongly for 12A and determined the film's 15 rating.
Moments of moderate violence in the film – as the aliens attack and when the human characters fight back – are undetailed, and bloody images (of injuries and in a scene where the mother gives birth) are shown only occasionally.
An interesting consequence of the film's premise and the way it is played out, with very little spoken dialogue, is that there were no issues of bad language to address in its classification.
Following the film's classification and release in cinemas, the BBFC's Advisory Panel on Children's Viewing – made up of experts in the fields of education, child development, and child protection – discussed the film and unanimously agreed with its 15 classification.
The BBFC Education team selected A Quiet Place for discussion at the 2018 Into Film Festival. You can read the detailed ratings info here.