The Quiet Girl REVIEW
GARY STEEL gets all teary watching this very special film about a lonely little girl who finds the meaning of love.
Screening in NZ from Thursday 21 July
At first, I suspected The Quiet Girl was going to be one of those grim rite of passage dramas that you should see rather than really want to. Then I wondered if it was simply going to be one of those gently bucolic feel-good dramas that are never as meaningful as they promise to be. The Quiet Girl is grim in parts and it is gently bucolic as well, but its sum total is so much more than either.
Would you like to support our mission to bring intelligence, insight and great writing to entertainment journalism? Help to pay for the coffee that keeps our brains working and fingers typing just for you. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Riveting writing on music, tech, hi-fi, music, film, TV and other cool stuff. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support Witchdoctor.co.nz. and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.
Set in rural Ireland in the 1970s, it stars Catherine Clinch as the nine-year-old quiet girl Cáit, whose struggling (and ever-expanding) family are increasingly neglectful of her emotional needs. With another baby on the way, Cáit is sent to spend the summer with a middle-aged childless couple who are distant relatives.
The unhappy reality of her life is so effectively depicted that when she’s deposited with strangers, you can’t help wondering what other horrors lie around the next corner. But instead, Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) and Seán (Andrew Bennett) turn out to be a warm, kind and patient couple of slowly bringing some joy back to Cáit’s existence.
Director Colm Bairéad shoots the film almost as though it’s viewed through Cáit’s eyes, and we see almost nothing that she doesn’t. This brilliantly captures the way she experiences things, from the pleasure she takes in having her hair gently brushed by Eibhlín to the mixture of revulsion and curiosity at an open-cask funeral, and especially the slowly deepening relationship she has with the initially reticent Seán, who becomes for all intents and purposes her real father figure.
All of the performances are superb, but it’s Carrie Crowley who deserves an award. She’s perfect as the kind would-be mother harbouring a tragic secret that, of course, Cáit eventually finds out about. Catherine Clinch in the main role doesn’t have to do a lot of talking, but she’s perfect for the part, with her subtle body language and a sweet face that instantly makes your heart go out to her character.
The era and the locations are captured perfectly and the story is one that any loving parent will appreciate. While it would be easy for a film like this to pile on the sentiment, its emotive content is painted with a subtlety that makes it all the more potent.
Some might be a little put off by the old-fashioned box-style aspect ratio (what, a nod to TV in the 1970s?) or the fact that it’s an Irish-language film with subtitles, but nothing gets in the way of The Quiet Girl’s quiet brilliance. I couldn’t help shedding a tear or three.