A young girl experiences a loving home for the first time when she spends the summer on a farm with distant relatives. Digital editor Dan Jensen takes a look at this quiet, charming Irish film.
AS HOLLYWOOD delivers bang-for-your-buck cinematic epics and dazzles us with movie magic, it’s nice to take a breather once in a while. The Quiet Girl offers a perfect respite, a minimalistic Irish film that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside.
Set in rural Ireland in 1981, The Quiet Girl tells the story of 9-year-old Cáit, who lives with her dysfunctional parents and siblings in a dishevelled home. As her mother is expecting yet another child, the decision is made to send Cáit off to live with distant relatives for the summer. Through her time there, Cáit learns the value of familial love and finds the self-respect she was never given the opportunity to know.
Written and directed by Colm Bairéad, adapted from the novella Foster by Claire Keegan, the film is a perfect example of how much can be achieved through very little. With only two main locations, few characters and minimal dialogue, we’re taken on a journey of emotional depth where actions speak louder than words. Presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio (an almost square picture, for those not familiar with cinema terminology), the film does a perfect job of transporting the viewer to a quiet Irish farm in 1981. And it’s a wonderful experience.
At the heart of the story is the character of Cáit, played to perfection by enigmatic newcomer Catherine Clinch. The story is told through her eyes, at first being picked on by her sisters and schoolmates as something of a “freak” and drawing sympathy from the audience within the first few minutes of meeting her. Cáit is an observer, watching the world pass by around her and trying to understand what it all means. And she’s just gorgeous. The viewer’s emotional journey follows hers in perfect sync.
Equally delightful are Carrie Crowley and Andrew Bennett as Eibhlín and Seán, the relatives Cáit has been sent to stay with. A couple who are longing for a child after a tragedy of which they are yet to let go, not only are they perfect characters to teach Cáit about love and respect but they also learn valuable life lessons through the child’s presence.
The Quiet Girl looks absolutely stunning. The farm on which most of the story takes place is lush and green, with its architecture lending a certain mood that any other setting wouldn’t create. Through some superb cinematography and production design, the film delivers colours and textures that generate an atmosphere of isolation and bittersweet loneliness. This is a film about feeling and emotion, with all facets of the filmmaking process blending together to make something perfect.
The film does move slowly at times, but that’s not a bad thing. Again, it all lends to the mood of the story. But there’s always something interesting happening within each scene and it’s fascinating to watch Cáit grow from a total wallflower to someone who takes a more proactive stance against the world around her. And seeing an innocent child experience kindness for the first time is genuinely rewarding.
And there are moments of tension here and there, particularly in a scene where Cáit tries to help her faux parents out by retrieving water from a well on her own. It’s a moment where you truly realise that you’ve fallen in love with the character and care deeply about her fate. And while the ending is a little ambiguous, you'll walk away wishing nothing but the best for Cáit.
If you’re after a heartwarming story that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled, The Quiet Girl is highly recommended. It’s an absolute gem and will most likely be considered a coming-of-age classic in years to come.
The Quiet Girl is now showing in selected cinemas across Australia.
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