Beth de Araujo’s debut feature film, “Soft & Quiet,” is a one-shot film (shot in four parts) with a palpable sense of terror throughout the runtime. It is always reassuring to watch a film with mostly women working behind and in front of the camera. De Araujo used her lived experience to develop this indie horror.
The audience is introduced to a white woman who is in tears after learning that she is not pregnant. We soon grasp that she is a schoolteacher, and she waits with one of her students whose parent is yet to come to take him home. It seemed bizarre when she encouraged her student to scold a non-white janitor who was cleaning the floors of the school. She stated that it was to teach her student to stand up for himself. She even lied to the parent, saying the student got injured because of the janitor’s carelessness.
Before making the film, De Araujo studied the women involved in the “Tradlife” movement; she noticed how they were visibly “soft” and “gentle,” which helped them propagate their message in mainstream media. The protagonist, Emily, is seemingly a gentle, white kindergarten teacher who carries a large pie with a swastika motif in hand.
‘Soft & Quiet’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
The camera follows Emily as she walks through the woods with a pie in her hand. She met one of the members of the group, Leslie, on the way to the meeting. Leslie was recommended to join the group by her employer, Kim. The group met on the first floor of a church. The moment Emily removed the cover of the pie and exposed the swastika made on top of it, we knew what this group meeting was all about. The members of the group laugh about the symbol, making it seem like a joke, but the discussion that soon follows confirms that it was all intentional. It was the first meeting of the “Daughters for Aryan Unity.” As the name suggests, the women discussed how they had been made to feel guilty for being white all their lives. They believed it was time to be proud of their race; after all, the entire world benefited from the white men’s business. They were a superior race with better genes that guaranteed better lives, and they refused to be apologetic about it.
The women were sentimental while sharing their personal experiences of how they were treated differently. They lost job opportunities only because they were white. The group expressed their fear of becoming a minority in their own country, and to stop that from happening they must expand their families and bear as many children as they can. Marjorie believed that the job promotion she deserved was given to the Columbian employee only to promote diversity. She was frustrated, but by joining the group she found her support system. The first agenda of the group was matchmaking. They had to find men with similar beliefs to pair up with the unmarried members of the group. Forming a family was a priority for the war they were fighting. The next agenda was recruiting more people to the group. One of the members of the group was the daughter of the chapter president of the Ku Klux Klan in Valentine, Nebraska. She was an active member of the Stormfront and stated that white lives were in real danger. (Stormfront is an online forum that propagates white supremacy, islamophobia, homophobia, antifeminism, antisemitism, and Holocaust denial.) Kim expressed how she could feel their country being taken away by illegal immigrants. She was planning on starting a newsletter to propagate their ideas to a larger audience. Leslie, who was invited by Kim, stated that she had been to prison, and it was there that she started living a life where she was told what to do every day. After getting out of prison, she looked up to Kim for that same guidance. She loved Kim’s children and hoped to have her own family someday. Children are important in this movement. They believe that the delicate age is the perfect time to groom the children. This explains why Emily chose to be a kindergarten teacher and decided to work on a children’s book.
The group intended to publish a magazine that would disseminate soft-core white supremacy. One of the members even suggested that white teachers must scold the black parents in front of their children to teach the children that their parents are an embarrassment, thereby breaking the family and creating more division. The discussion was interrupted by the pastor of the church. He disapprovingly asked Emily and the group to leave before he reported them to the police. Emily asked the group to join her for wine at her house. Leslie and Marjorie agreed to accompany Emily to her house, and they decided to get a bottle of wine from Kim’s store. Before leaving, a member gives the Nazi salute, and Emily replicates the gesture with a laugh.
As the women stepped inside the store to pick up the essentials, two Asian women entered to grab a bottle of wine. Kim denied them service and asked them to leave disrespectfully. The two girls tried to convince Kim that they would buy an expensive bottle of wine. Emily stepped up and asked them to buy the most expensive bottle in the store. Marjorie blocks the door and bars the girls from leaving after purchasing the wine. After a heated argument, Kim brought out her gun and asked the girls to leave. While leaving, one of the girls mentioned how Emily’s brother was in prison for rape. This is the turning point in the film. The fact that Emily’s brother was in prison for raping Anne (which Emily believes to be a lie) explains the passion with which Emily formed a group to propagate the hate she harbored for minority communities.
‘Soft & Quiet’ Ending Explained: How Did The Night Turn Violent? Did Ana And Lily Survive?
After meeting with like-minded individuals and sharing their ideas, the women felt a sense of power. Each one of them had always hated the non-whites and the non-Christians, but they never got the opportunity to say it out loud. In the meeting, they did so, and they were appreciated for sharing their thoughts. They could use the racial slurs that they had always wanted to use in public. Their collective strength made them feel powerful and undefeatable. They were no longer afraid of being called a racist; they were white and proud, and they would no longer let go of anyone who dared to shame them. When Emily broke down after the mention of her brother in prison, Leslie proposed that they go to the girl’s house and vandalize her property. By then, Emily’s husband had joined the group. He tried talking sense to the women, but they were charged with revenge. They had been sharing their hateful thoughts in the meeting, but now was the time to put their hate into action. During the meeting, Marjorie carefully mentioned that she did not hate any person or community, but here she was, harassing the Asian women. She perhaps had always wanted to do it, but she never had the courage to. By being a part of the organization, she felt invincible. The women in the group made Emily feel special; she was appreciated for being a woman with beauty and knowledge. She was no longer just a kindergarten teacher; she had a greater purpose now. She was a leader in the war they were fighting, and she refused to be weak. When Leslie and Marjorie propose to destroy the girl’s property, Emily agrees with their plan even though her husband, Craig, thinks it is a terrible idea. She intimidated her husband, cursing him for being weak and not standing up for her. The Karens geared up for war, and they were visibly excited about it.
Upon entering the house, they grabbed beers and food from the fridge. Emily befriended the dog in the house. They aimed to find the passport and burn it. While they did find the passport, before they could burn it, they heard a car pulling into the driveway. Anne entered the house, but she soon realized that there were bags and things on the table that indicated that someone was in the house. She tried to run away, but Craig got hold of her. She was tied down. Craig later got hold of her sister, Lily, as well. He asked the girls to leave as soon as possible, but they weren’t sure if leaving right then was the best idea. Craig decided to leave, knowing that it would only get worse with time. Leslie consoled Emily, saying that she was stronger than her husband and did not need him at the moment. Leslie was an ex-con; she was not unfamiliar with such situations, and she clearly relished moments when she could dominate and take control. Meanwhile, Marjorie was an alcoholic; she had been drinking from the moment she stepped out of the meeting, explaining why she perhaps did not get the job promotion. The alcohol made her feel bolder than ever, and she participated in the following events willfully. Kim was a mother of two, and she was scared of the consequences. She had been having fun all this while, but now she realized that she could be accused of an actual crime.
Leslie proposed that they scare the two girls, get rid of their fingerprints and leave. Emily and Marjorie agreed with the plan, and they managed to convince Kim to join them. In the process of scaring the girls, they forcefully fed Lily peanuts and that resulted in an allergic reaction. The girls panicked as Lily choked and died. None of the women had any idea what they were doing. Emily wanted to stick to her fierce image, and she did so by blindly following the ideas of a convicted criminal. Kim continued to blame Lily for her death, saying that if she had shown respect, she would not have survived. Therefore, it is not the fault of the white women ganging up on two Asian women; rather, it was the fault of Lily and Anne that they resisted the torture. Leslie gleefully agreed to murder Anne, and in exchange, she wanted Emily to model for her vintage clothing collection online. Her proposal with a smile was absolutely psychotic, considering the situation they were in. Emily was stunned to speak, but she nodded, knowing that she needed Leslie’s help to clean up the mess. Leslie murdered Anne with a pillow, and the women prepared to dispose of the bodies in the lake. They planned to dispose of every item they touched and roughly cleaned the house. After getting rid of the bodies, their plan was to return to the house and deep clean everything.
They loaded the bodies in the car and drove to the lake. Leslie and Emily got on the boat and sailed somewhat in the middle of the lake; that was the spot they decided to drown the bodies. When they sailed back to the shore after unloading the bodies, we noticed bubbles in the water. Soon, Anne emerged from the water alive. We know that the group will return to Anne’s home to clean the place, and we can only hope that by the time the police arrive, they will still be there. “Soft & Quiet” ends on an optimistic note, reassuring the audience that no one can get away after performing a heinous crime driven by racial hatred. Anne’s face emerging from the water is that ray of hope that one lives with. It confirms that after all the hatred that the minority communities have to endure, they only emerge stronger to take down those who have wronged them.
All the women who participated in the murder wanted to prove themselves. Emily was a kindergarten teacher at a local school, Marjorie was not doing the best at her workplace, Kim owned a store, Leslie worked at the store, and all of them were living quite a moderate life. Vandalizing Anne’s property was their way of doing something remarkable and impactful in their lives. “Soft & Quiet” builds on the panic gradually. We know we are in for a disturbing ride the moment we enter the meeting. We realize that something bad is bound to happen, and the hate will eventually spill out of control, but the question is when and how. Nearly an hour into the film, we figure out how. The camera stays with the racist group from the very beginning, creating the sense that the audience is now a part of the crime as well by being the silent spectator. But in the end, the camera stays with Anne; it chooses not to go back with the group and instead focuses on the victim, the one who truly needs the attention. There are aspects of the film that could have been better executed, but “Soft & Quiet” manages to grab hold of the audience’s attention, forcing them to live the horror and start a conversation around it.
“Soft & Quiet” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Beth de Araujo.