A lonely Irish girl discovers a life she never believed possible in Colm Bairéad’s beautifully realised family drama. International Jury Prize, Generation Kplus, Berlinale 2022.
The first Gaelic language feature to compete at Berlin, and winner of seven Irish Film and Television Awards including Best Film, The Quiet Girl portrays the loneliness of an innocent child oblivious to the damage of grief in the adult world around her. Not a second is superfluous in this precise accumulation of sound and image set in 1980s rural Ireland. Deep emotional undercurrents are present, even in the quietest moments of Bairéad’s adaptation of Claire Keegan’s 2010 short story Foster. Child actor Catherine Clinch is simply superb as Cáit, a nine-year-old shunned at school and treated with indifference by her pregnant mother and a father who cares more about gambling than his wife and four daughters. Cáit experiences love and warmth for the first time after being packed off to spend the summer with Eibhlín and Seán, older relatives with a fairy-tale-like dairy farm in Waterford. Words never spoken and sentences left unfinished are just as powerful as the deliberately sparse dialogue as Cáit begins to blossom in the sunshine and discovers a secret with life-affecting consequences. Small, quiet, perfectly formed films like this are a reason to celebrate cinema.