Let me just say, “The Quiet Girl” crushed me. Based on a 2010 Claire Keegan novella called “Foster”, this tender, absorbing feature debut from Colm Bairéad follows a young girl named Cáit who experiences a warm, stable, and loving home for the first time in her life. It’s a simple premise. But with the precision and patience of a seasoned filmmaker, writer-director Bairéad shows remarkable restraint, allowing his story the room to unfold organically while trusting his instincts and his audience. The results are sublime.
As its title may hint, “The Quiet Girl” basks in the richness and simplicity of movie quietude. Everything including the beautifully understated performances, the deftly written screenplay, and the compelling visual language shows how a movie can relay an extraordinary amount of information and emotion by simply turning down the volume and observing. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but Bairéad’s shrewd control of the storytelling (both narratively and visually) keeps us locked in and communicates everything we need to know about his characters and their circumstances.
Nine-year-old Cáit (Catherine Clinch in her remarkably delicate and earnest debut) is practically invisible to her neglectful family which includes her sad and melancholy mother Marie (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) who’s pregnant with yet another child, her cold and detached father Dan (Michael Patric) who blows money gambling rather than investing in their struggling farm, and her three rowdy sisters who overlook her both at home and at school. It’s far from a joy-filled life which is why Cáit prefers hiding in the tall grassy fields, alone with her thoughts rather than being around those who are supposed to be closest to her.
Cáit is surprised when she’s unceremoniously sent to stay with some relatives for the summer while her mother prepares for their new baby. The childless couple, Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) and Seán (Andrew Bennett), have a much more even-tempered and ordered life. It’s a far cry from the cold and prickly ‘home’ Cáit is used to. The kindhearted and motherly Eibhlín seems especially happy to have Cáit around while Sean seems more uncertain (our first hint at the couple’s backstory which fully surfaces later and adds a touching emotional layer).
Though shy and trepidatious at first, Cáit slowly begins to warm up to her new surroundings, not used to such stability and compassion. Over time she even begins to thaw Sean’s icy exterior. Bairéad spends a big chunk of the film building these new relationships and showing us both the beauty and the power of human kindness. His unhurried and uncomplicated storytelling allow the characters to open up at their own speeds. And as they inevitably draw closer, we can’t help but be moved thanks to how honestly Bairéad depicts everything we see.
But “The Quiet Girl” is also a film about finding the courage to communicate. And that’s a theme not just designated for the young title character. Eibhlín and Sean (we learn) have their own suppressed feelings they keep bottled up deep inside, unwilling to share them with Cáit or each other. But again, its acts of kindness, here more often shown rather than spoken, that nurture a sense of letting go and moving on.
Cinematographer Kate McCullough is crucial, especially in a film that leans so heavily on our observation. As sumptuous as they are revealing, her images are shot in Academy aspect ratio (which is suddenly popular again, especially on the indie circuit) and help express what the characters can’t bring themselves to say. Also, McCullough frames and shoots Eibhlín and Sean’s rural farm in a way that helps us (much like Cáit) feel at home, with her camera often returning to their long beautiful driveway shaded with tall overhanging trees, their small but cozy 80s-era kitchen, their tranquil path to a nearby slurry, etc. And her images are often bound together by the gentle chords of Stephen Rennicks’s score – minimal, but exactly what the film needs.
Some might be tempted to call it slow or even slight. But doing so dismisses so much of what makes “The Quiet Girl” special. First-timer Colm Bairéad clearly understands there is poetry in silence and his film embraces it to the fullest, building towards what’s arguably the most affecting final shot I’ve seen this year or in recent years. It’s such a perfect punctuation mark for a movie that doesn’t need pages upon pages of dialogue or cranked up melodrama to convey emotion and truth.
Yay! I’m glad you liked this too. I adored it and cried like a baby at the end.
One of the most crushing final shots in decades. I’ve had this review held for months. So glad to finally get it out. It never made it to theaters around here but I hope it gets an audience.
I hope it comes to a streamer near me!
Me too. I’m not sure what service is going to pick it up.
Read the top of the review and will wait to read the rest later after seeing it.
Good deal. Let me know what you think. I can’t recommend it enough.
I’ve heard a lot of things about this film as I want to see this.
It’s terrific and it had a firm place on my Top 10 list last year. Really bummed that it hasn’t gotten a bigger release.
Will Barbie be one of the Top 10 Films of 2023?
It very well could be. I believe in Gerwig.
I believe in her too.
I hope to see this, as the subject matter is one of the largest problems we have in society today: “Not talking about our feelings!”
YES! That’s very much a part of this movie. I can’t recommend it enough. It was in my Top 10 last year. Sadly, it hasn’t gotten a very big distribution. Hope you’re able to find it.