The Quiet Girl
Reviewed for Film Factual by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Colm Bairéad
Writer: Colm Bairéad
Cast: Catherine Clinch, Carrie Crowley, Andrew Bennett
Screened at: FYC screener, LA, 1/4/23
Opens: February 2023
The less a person says, the likelier others are to try and speak for them. That’s not to say that the overly verbose don’t invite judgment from acquaintances and friends who would rather they not talk as much, but that assumptions tend to be made about those who are shy or relatively silent that may not be at all rooted in truth. Widely-discussed modern notions of introverts offer more insight, but, throughout history, there have been many people whose specific social needs or abilities have gone entirely unaddressed or have been subjected to unwanted alteration efforts.
In 1981 Ireland, Cáit (Catherine Clinch) grows up in a large family struggling to make ends meet. She is soft-spoken and considerably less communicative than her siblings, and the upcoming birth of a new baby prompts her parents to send her to live with relatives. She is warmly welcomed by Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley), who comforts her when she notices that she has wet the bed by apologizing for giving her “weeping” bedding. Eibhlín’s husband, Seán (Andrew Bennett), takes more time before he feels comfortable with Cáit, who observes plenty about her new home as she finds herself truly seen for the first time.
Ireland’s shortlisted Oscar submission for Best International Feature has a fitting title, one that should adequately prepare audiences for its pacing. Not much happens over the course of its 95-minute runtime, and it’s the subtler moments that mean more. Switching back and forth between Gaelic and English, Cáit is not mute but rarely speaks without being prompted, and Eibhlín approaches her in a way that doesn’t demand anything of her nor force her to feel guilty about or apologize for her existence. It’s a new sensation for Cáit, one that she doesn’t realize that she deserves.
This film is a remarkable showcase for first-time actress Clinch, who is left to carry many of the scenes all on her own. Being in the presence of people who don’t resent her for being there or needing something means that she also has time to be alone with herself. Those moments are poignant and find Cáit taking in her surroundings and appreciating what she has never been able to do before since she can just be. Clinch is superbly talented and more than holds her own against the adults who, with the exception of Eibhlín and Seán, project nothing but ill will at her.
The way in which Eibhlín, as delicately played by Crowley, interacts with Cáit is heartwarming, but it’s even more endearing to see how, when he’s finally ready, Seán gets to know her. He delights in teaching her the different aspects of farming and seeing how she grows and excels at certain tasks. Charting that journey from uncertain ground to a true parental relationship is an inviting experience, one that Bennett adds to productively in his scenes with Clinch.
While this is a story about one particular girl and the way in which she is able to find something that resembles happiness with people who are not her parents, it has a universal resonance about how children can struggle to fit in with their families. Anyone who defies an expectation that parents have for them may find themselves looked down upon or ostracized, and though Cáit is not purposely rebelling or doing anything specific to upset them, it’s that same idea that leads to her parents deciding they are better off, at least, temporarily, without her. This film, like its protagonist, tackles that concept in a similarly soft-spoken way, showing the beauty that can be found by those willing to look for it when others have simply stopped trying.
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B