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(A Quiet Little Marriage is now available for home viewing through 11/17/09 through IFC’s Festival Direct platform. Visit the film’s official website, as well as its page at, to learn more.)

Winner of the Narrative Grand Jury Award at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival, Mo Perkins’ A Quiet Little Marriage is, as its cozy title implies, a charming little movie. But, as with the production’s superficially glossy high-def presentation, that title belies a more insidious purpose. With her debut feature, Perkins sets her sights on a complicated subject that is rarely addressed in contemporary cinema.

Dax (Cy Carter) and Olive (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) have a pretty great life—or, at the very least, they have a pretty great marriage. Though Olive’s father is losing his mind and Dax’s brother is a drug addict, this hasn’t gotten in the way of their youthful domestic bliss. One night, after a dinner party, Olive confesses that she wants to have a baby. Dax is taken aback. He bluntly reminds her that on their first date, they both agreed that bringing a child into this world would be akin to committing child abuse. He refuses to discuss the topic. Seeing his reaction, Olive decides to take matters into her own hands. When Dax discovers what Olive has done, rather than confront her about it, he performs his own bold, dishonest act to even the score.

aquietlittlemarriagestillAt first, one might mistake A Quiet Little Marriage for being a straightforward portrait of domestic bliss. Perkins takes her time in setting up the day-to-day lives of her characters, to the point where we believe Olive and Dax’s regular, everyday routines. But that comfort zone is uprooted when the seemingly grounded couple begins to act like they’re in a less murderous Lifetime movie. This behavior might make many viewers tune out, and while it certainly turns the film into more of a “movie” than it seemed to be at first, it actually furthers the discussion about the importance of being honest and forthright when it comes to long-term relationships (or anything, for that matter).

While A Quiet Little Marriage has some big distractions for me—for starters, the subplots with both the father and brother just didn’t butter my bread—this is one of those cases where I came out of the movie still feeling positive enough to want to write about it. Oftentimes, those issues would cause me to have an overall negative reaction. But here, it isn’t merely the fact that Perkins has chosen such a worthy subject for a movie. When you watch as many no/low-budget movies as I do, a work like this stands out. Collaborating with her lead actors on the script, which was supposedly borne out of improvisation and workshopping, Perkins actively shunned the current fascination with “hand-held ultra-realism” and put her camera on a tripod. The result is an intelligent, ambitious concept turned into a nice little lesson in filmmaking ingenuity.

— Michael Tully

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Michael Tully was born and raised in Maryland and now lives on Tennis Court in Brooklyn. His most recent narrative feature, Septien, world-premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was picked up for distribution by Sundance Selects. In addition to directing Cocaine Angel (2006) and Silver Jew (2007), he is also a proud alumni of Filmmaker Magazine's annual "25 New Faces of Independent Film" club (2006). Visit his indieWIRE blog Boredom at its Boredest——for more sporadic personal updates.

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