The Quiet Girl

With her Mam (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, "Shadow Dancer") still dealing with a baby while expecting her sixth child, the decision is made to send the next youngest and most unnoticed, Cáit (Catherine Clinch), to cousins in the country.  Driven by her ne’er do well Da (Michael Patric, "A Dog's Purpose"), who takes off for home without unloading her suitcase, Cáit encounters kindness and interest in herself as a person for the first time from Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley, "Extra Ordinary") and Seán (Andrew Bennett, "God's Creatures") who open their wounded hearts to “The Quiet Girl.”

Laura's Review: A

Writer/director Colm Bairéad makes his narrative feature debut adapting Claire Keegan's short story 'Foster' in the Irish language, the first to be nominated for the International Oscar.  In his director’s notes, Bairéad opines ‘that something quite expansive and profound can be found in small places, in a kind of narrative humility,’ a concept he proves in the shy Cáit’s perception of events around her.  “The Quiet Girl” illustrates how selfishness and neglect diminish the human spirit and celebrates how simple acts of kindness encourage it to blossom.   

Although Cáit’s home and that of her mother’s cousin are both farms, they couldn’t be more different.  The first suffers from neglect, her mother overwhelmed with children, clutter and debt, her father seeking solace in drink and other women.  Among her boisterous siblings and schoolmates, Cáit disappears, her anxiety expressed in the bed wetting that draws more rebukes.  When her father drops her off with people who are strangers to her, he tells them they can ‘work her,’ although she’ll ‘eat you out of house and home.’

The somber young girl is treated gently by Eibhlín, who immediately tries to make her feel at home by giving her a room and finding clothes that fit, both the room’s furnishings and the outfits hanging in its wardrobe telling an untold tale.  This home is bright and uncluttered, homey yet more expansive with a welcoming kitchen, all set within natural splendor.  But while Eibhlín embraces the visitor, Seán, though not unkind, is standoffish.  Gradually emboldened, Cáit begins tailing Seán, following his example as he sweeps out the barns.  Growing used to her quiet company, then turning around one day and not finding her, Seán panics, yelling that she can’t wander off like that, but his real message can be found in the cookie he offers her back in that kitchen.

Bairéad expresses so much in ‘ordinary’ scenes like this and he’s found a true collaborator in his young star Catherine Clinch who expresses so much to those willing to look her way, her smile as radiant as a beam of light bursting through stormy clouds.  The filmmaker also explores the negative side of attention in the form of the Kinsellas’ neighbor Úna (Joan Sheehy), a busybody who grills Cáit about everything from whether Eibhlín uses butter or margarine in her pastry to whether she’s ‘still drinking.’  Notably, cinematographer Kate McCullough (TV’s ‘Normal People’), allows less light into Úna’s home. 

Cáit may be told her guardians’ tragic truth by Úna but she intuits it within the love still resident in their generous hearts.  The film concludes with an echo of the past averted and bond forever forged.  “The Quiet Girl” offers profundity in simplicity.

Robin's Review: A-

It does not happen to me very often, but sometimes a film captures both my mind and my heart and makes me want to know what happens to the characters after the final credits roll. “The Quiet Girl,” by director Colm Bairead, adapting the story, Foster, by Claire Keegan, had that effect on me.

The story centers on shy, quiet Cait (Catherine Clinch) as we meet her in her dysfunction family’s home. Dad is an abusive drunkard and her mom, once again pregnant, has her own mental problems to cope with. With the new baby coming, 12-year old Cait is unceremoniously shipped off, by her father, to “her mother’s family” in the country.

When Cait arrives, her mom’s cousin, Eihblin (Carrie Crowley), welcomes her with open arms. Her husband, Sean (Andrew Bennett), is less enthusiastic about the new visitor and, initially, holds the girl at arm’s length. What transpires from this moment is an environment of warmth and loving that the young girl has never known.

Unfortunately for me, I felt, almost from the start, exactly how things would turn out for Cait, even without really knowing. This is more a story about love and hope that is dashed by Cait’s reality. It is a hard slog, emotionally, since we know that the youngster belongs with his foster parents. You know she would be loved and happy with Eihblin and Sean, but you also know, in the pit of the stomach, it will not happen.

I felt rung out and sad at the end of “The Quiet Girl” and that is a remarkable accomplishment for a filmmaker – Colm Bairead is now on my radar.

Neon gave "The Quiet Girl" a 2022 qualifying run.  It opens theatrically in select theaters on 2/23/23, expanding nationwide on 3/3/23.