While A Quiet Place was ostensibly about the bravery of two parents protecting their children from a strange noise-based apocalypse, the second film reveals Deaf teenager Regan Abbott, the eldest child of the family, as the central fighter. Charlotte Little reflects on the moment she finally saw herself onscreen as a young Deaf woman with hearing aids in the film.
When I was a pre-teen, I hated my hearing aids. I used my hair as drapes to hide them from the rest of the world. I never wore my hair up in a ponytail. I endured the sticky, flustered sensation of a sweat-drenched face and neck during gym classes out of sheer dread that someone would sneer at the sight of these metallic contraptions in my ears. It had happened before. I was told that "only old people wear hearing aids". I got called Grandma. I was embarrassed to be deaf.
I grew up watching movies, but no matter which ones I watched, I always felt like something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t feel like I was experiencing the same thing as everyone else, I didn't feel a part of these stories because I never saw anyone like me. I'd flinch every time I heard demeaning phrases like, "What are ya, deaf?!" and I'd clench my fists at the glimpse of a deaf character who was the butt of the joke, hoping that no one would look at me.
In 2018, everyone told me to see John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place. I'll never forget the beaming smile I had from ear to ear whenever Regan Abbott, played by Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, was on screen. She is a Deaf child within a hearing family, and although I’m not fluent in sign language and I haven’t survived an apocalypse, I saw myself in her. We both shared the same struggles with our identity.
A survival story about a family using sign language in a world overrun by extra-terrestrial predators with heightened hearing, the world of A Quiet Place is teeming with overwhelming soundscapes and heart palpitations. A Quiet Place is almost entirely subtitled, and the family's use of ASL crutches their survival, adapting visual communication to bypass the need for sound in a world where a whisper can end in bloodshed. The Abbotts’ evolutionary advantage of communicating without alerting the monsters is owed to Regan's deafness, offering a unique narrative about disability that casts a different light – one of strength, not one of burden.
The first film opens with the barefooted Abbott family silently scavenging for supplies in a deserted town. Four-year-old Beau is drawn to a battery-operated space shuttle toy, but Lee, the father, confiscates the space shuttle before it makes too much noise. Feeling sorry for her younger brother, Regan takes the batteries out of the toy before handing it back to him. They return home by following a sand trail laid down to minimise sound – the family walk single file across a bridge, and our skin prickles. Beau has put the batteries back in the toy, and within seconds, he's snatched to his death.
A year later, Regan struggles to cope with the guilt over her brother's death. Her cochlear implant has broken and despite her father's attempts to repair it, her frustrations are bubbling over. The family dynamics have shifted with the loss of the youngest. There's a solemnity casting a shadow over the family, and a sense of distrust towards Regan. She can't even be trusted to go into the dark basement alone.
Her exasperation is heightened when she's left behind with her heavily pregnant mother as her father takes her brother Marcus scavenging. In one scene, Marcus and Lee sit by a crashing waterfall. Marcus asks his father if he blames Regan for Beau's death. It was no one's fault, Lee says.
"You still love her, right?"
"Of course I do."
"You should tell her."
Regan then packs a bag and sneaks out of the house. She walks along the sand trail to her brother's memorial on the bridge. With the batteries taken out, she places the space shuttle against Beau's cross. She lays down and rests among the toys and tributes. Alerted by the farmhouse's red lighting, Regan springs to action. There's not a second thought in her mind. After several scenes of heart-pounding, monster-induced terror, Lee shows the utmost display of parental love. He sacrifices his life for his children, giving them a chance to escape from the predators. He signs his final words to Regan.
"I love you. I have always loved you."
After Lee's sacrificial death, Evelyn and Regan discover the monsters' weakness. Wincing with discomfort as her cochlear squeals with feedback, Regan notices the monster's distressed reaction, causing it to reveal the flesh beneath its armoured head. Using a microphone and speaker to amplify the high-pitched frequency, Regan and Evelyn kill the agonised monster with a single gunshot.
All my life, I never had a deaf character to look up to, but in those final few moments, Regan was the superhero I never had. I was 20 when I saw A Quiet Place, and it was euphoric and cathartic. I felt unapologetically proud to be deaf. It was a bittersweet experience, filled with immense comfort but also an underlying anger that it had taken two decades to feel like I had a story worth telling.
A Quiet Place establishes Emily Blunt's Evelyn Abbott as the gun-cocking, alien-slaying hero, but the sequel sees Regan emerge as leader. Picking up right where the first film left off, the family needs to find a place of safety after having suffered a loss and gained a new member all in the same night. Having learnt the monster's kryptonite, Regan has the tools to safeguard her family. She recognises the need to honour her father's legacy and protect her family, and now carries the torch.
In A Quiet Place 2, Regan sets out to find a means of escape for her family. She embarks on a journey to find a new home, discovering fellow survivors and a monster-free island. Regan’s resourcefulness and initiative are woven throughout the film, and her newfound empowerment and confidence in her abilities as a Deaf person fuelling her independence. Having slain countless monsters with her cochlear implant, and experienced vulnerability and distress when she thought she had lost it, Regan travels to the island, where danger awaits her. The monsters board a deserted, drifting boat, and wreak havoc on the island’s inhabitants. The town leader drives Regan to a local radio station, in the hope of using her hearing device to catalyse a monster massacre.
The sequel's final scene almost exactly replicates the first film's ending. Regan uses her implant to protect those around her, undeterred by fear. In the first film, the final shot is a close up of Evelyn's face. In the sequel, it's Regan's.
She weaponises something that she once perceived as broken and useless, with this newfound power and pride anchoring her and her family’s survival.
The sequel ends on a cliff-hanger, leaving room for the franchise to develop. But wherever the fictional story goes, I cherish knowing that I could survive in Regan's universe. My hearing aids aren’t something to be ashamed of – deafness is a powerful tool to treasure.
Charlotte Little (@ALittleOutlook) is a Scotland based freelance film writer with a passion for disability representation and accessible cinema.