Review by Cole Groth
Ireland is making waves at this year’s Academy Awards. While The Banshees of Inisherin and its nine nominations will outshadow The Quiet Girl, it’s important to realize that the latter is the first ever Irish-language film to be nominated at the Oscars. While this drama, directed by Colm Bairéad in his directorial debut, doesn’t carry high stakes and is occasionally dull, it’s a powerful and emotional tale that’ll tug at your heartstrings.
The Quiet Girl (in Irish called An Cailín Ciúin) follows nine-year-old Cáit (Catherine Clinch), an appropriately quiet girl growing up with a large family in rural Ireland. Her parents, unfortunately, are neglectful and seem to forget that Cáit even exists. After her mother becomes pregnant again, they send her off to live with her distant cousin, Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley), and her husband, Seán (Andrew Bennett).
For the first time in Cáit’s life, she’s shown what true parental love can be like. Eibhlín is immediately warm to her, but Seán is withdrawn at first. Over time, he grows fond of her, and by the end of the film, Cáit’s bond with the two is remarkable. While this plot won’t hold the attention of viewers looking for something exciting, it’s a remarkably beautiful coming-of-age story.
This film would not work nearly as well without the tremendous work of Catherine Clinch. At 12 years old, Clinch delivers one of the strongest child performances in years as the timid lead. There’s much beauty to be found in her subdued performance, which is also supported by the brilliant work of Carrie Crowley and Andrew Bennett. This film is about familial bonds, and these three actors do a stunningly good job of seeming like a real family.
Director Colm Bairéad packs each scene with subtle details of grief, parenthood, and family-building. Subtle flashbacks and cuts reveal details that explain more of the relatively limited story of the two surrogate parents. Bairéad’s script, adapted from Claire Keegan’s short story "Foster," does an incredible job of drawing emotion out of each interaction, and his ending will leave viewers feeling a wide array of emotions. The cinematography from Kate McCullough and the editing from John Murphy are beautiful and enhance the script immensely.
As far as this year’s Oscar nominees go, The Irish Girl isn’t nearly as in your face. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t deserve your attention, though. While it seems unlikely to win the Oscar, seeing a film like this receive a nomination is nice. It’s a powerful piece of media that highlights important issues and will undoubtedly leave a mark on many viewers. In 94 minutes, Colm Bairéad will give you a different perspective on family, and that’s worth so much more than the time it takes to watch.
The Quiet Girl releases in theaters starting February 24.