The Quiet Girl (An Cailín Ciúin)
In an idyllic summer in 1981, shy nine-year-old Cáit (a show-stealing Catherine Clinch) is sent to stay with distant relatives on their farm. Spending her time split between preparing food at the kitchen table with Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) and nursing the calves alongside Seán (Andrew Bennett), the youngster gradually emerges from her shell. With The Quiet Girl, writer-director Colm Bairéad has crafted a sublime coming-of-age tale that’s as tranquil as the Irish countryside in which it’s set.
Presented in a narrow aspect ratio reminiscent of old home videos, Bairéad’s slice-of-life drama proceeds at its own steady pace as viewers follow the activities of the young girl and her foster parents over the several weeks in which the film takes place. They go to the well to collect water, sit around the table watching a game of cards, and take a trip into town to buy some clothes. Bairéad’s script doesn’t adhere to a conventional plot structure, which may discourage some, however, hiding just under the surface lies a tremendously moving portrait of family, grief and love.
Much of this story is masterfully told through tone alone. The cold blues and greys of Cáit’s family home are replaced by the warm sunshine of her foster parents’. Aside from a sparingly used score that matches the cinematography in terms of its fragile beauty, the only dominant sounds in the house are the ticking of the kitchen clock and the noise of the television in the background (the latter creating a contrast between the family’s rural lifestyle and modern civilisation that feels like a million miles away). More is conveyed in simple static shots than words could ever explain. And when the film arrives at its conclusion, the largely unspoken finale tugs hard on the heartstrings.
A shocking revelation is introduced towards the third act, which drastically reframes the older couple’s situation. While the filmmaker gets the point across succinctly, this narrative beat nevertheless feels somewhat underdeveloped and could have benefited from some further exploration.
Held together by a collection of strong performances and spectacular cinematography, The Quiet Girl is a remarkably touching coming-of-age summer tale.
The Quiet Girl (An Cailín Ciúin) is released in select cinemas on 13th May 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Quiet Girl (An Cailín Ciúin) here: