- The Quiet Girl review by PD
This delicate and unsurprisingly quiet debut piece from Colm Bairéad follows Cáit, a shy, sad schoolgirl in an unhappy family, sent away to spend the summer with her mother’s cousin. There, she’s shown a simple, uncomplicated tenderness, gradually forging a family of the kind she’s clearly never experienced before - Carrie Crowley as Eibhlín in particular giving a low-key but totally convincing portrayal of someone transformed by the newcomer, whilst Catherine Clinch as Cáit gives a mature, understated yet powerful performance well beyond her years, her face betraying anxieties she doesn’t yet fully understand at every turn.
The dialogue almost entirely consists in a gentle and lyrical Irish - tellingly, the few English speakers in the film are characters Cáit fears or struggles to trust, such as her belligerent, emotionally inert father - and though the attention is focused on its central figure, the film is full of people unable to express themselves, inner turmoil in different forms. Cáit’s parents are sad and unfulfilled; Cáit herself struggles to make friends; and her foster parents, though much more open and loving, have a grief-filled history they are not fully sharing: it takes acts of mutual care and affection for any lines of communication to open. There's also a vinegary tang of black comedy and cynicism provided by neighbour Úna (a brief but terrific turn from Joan Sheehy) who looks after Cáit one afternoon and brutally tells the girl all about what her foster parents aren’t telling her - we suspect of course that Eibhlín wanted Úna to shoulder the awful burden of revealing this.
The sedate camerawork never leaves Cáit’s vantage point, and the naturalistic cinematography appropriately finds a comfort in stillness, as does the minimalist score. There's a little too much sentiment occasionally, and the filmmaker is perhaps guilty of manipulating our emotions at times, but overall it's a lovely, tender piece giving us a child's perspective on our fallen world. Sometimes, the film ponders, it’s better not to say anything at all. “She says as much as she needs to say,” Cáit’s adoptive father says of her. “May there be many like her.”
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