The Quiet Girl – Film Review

The school summer holidays were quite often a time of adventure and a time of expression, which is the focus of The Quiet Girl. The film’s title provides that perfectly succinct description of the persona of Cáit, often filmed alone, who is shy and unassuming amongst a large Irish family and embarks on this personal journey. The film follows Cáit’s arc over the course of one summer where her development is nourished by residing with distant relatives. The Quiet Girl is itself a quiet, beautifully filmed emotive tale highlighting that difference between nature and nurture for a young girl. It is an affecting debut with a standout performance from young actor Catherine Clinch as Cáit who is compelling to watch.

Based on the short story Foster by Claire Keegan, the film’s setting within 1981 Ireland provides that lingering backdrop of the Troubles and other historical incidents at the time. The Quiet Girl is also mainly filmed in the Irish language and therefore serves to showcase the cultural significance of language, as even the utterance of English interspersed within the film seems jarring. Whilst The Quiet Girl does not emphasise the political backdrop, excerpts from news broadcasts subtly provide that context and reveal the struggle for many families, including Cáit’s.

Cáit’s family view her as a nuisance and she is seen being teased at school and lying in a field alone. Such encounters experienced by Cáit are often wordless, with her eyes or bowed head solely betraying her emotions. Clinch’s expressive, haunting, portrayal as Cáit will pierce the soul in this tender but heart-breaking depiction of a neglected child. Indeed, the film’s focus is often on expressing  emotions through glances or tender touches as Cáit is tenderly guided. The Quiet Girl simply oozes with that sensation of love and compassion through its imagery and breath-taking cinematography conveying the simplistic viewpoint of an introverted child desperate to be understood and loved for being herself.

Catherine Clinch and Carrie Crowley in The Quiet Girl

It is this immersive viewpoint within The Quiet Girl that truly strikes a chord whereby simplistic gestures such as a shared breakfast or a small treat given, without fanfare, take on immense significance. The film’s beauty lies in this visual demonstration of such kind acts. It is this importance of empathy that ultimately underpins The Quiet Girl enabling the introverted actions of a young girl to unfold within the film at a delicate pace without testing the audience’s patience. Whilst the film may embrace slow cinema, there is something immensely touching in being immersed within Cáit’s inner world under the direction of Colm Bairéad’s vision.  This vision allows the film to be that gentle guide revealing how Cáit’s development is accentuated through verbal and non-verbal communication, which is a fascinating watch and underlines that nature versus nurture debate.

Whilst The Quiet Girl is not plot driven, the film operates as a series of emotions building up tenderly across an open canopy. The film stresses the importance of a child’s ability to become confident in the right environment and to thrive with love. Even though the family with which she temporarily resides have their own burdens, the film explores the impact that absolute freedom can have on a child, with captivating slow motion shots.

Catherine Clinch in The Quiet Girl
Catherine Clinch in The Quiet Girl

The Quiet Girl succeeds in its simplicity and tranquillity and its uniqueness within a coming of age narrative. The film will weave most viewers under its spell with its straightforward but warm narrative.  Similar to Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman, it is delightful to watch films celebrating moments of childhood innocence. However, The Quiet Girl is guaranteed to leave an indelible imprint with its poignant storyline. It is a beautiful, soulful, remarkably filmed debut which, combined with the unforgettable emotional range of Catherine Clinch should ensure that it is well received.



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