Film review: ‘THE QUIET GIRL’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The sensitive, charming but still gritty Irish film, The Quiet Girl (which is spoken almost entirely in Irish Gaelic) will no doubt prove to be a favourite for some filmgoers this year. It shows that a tearjerker can still be a credible and genuinely affecting drama.

In her first film role, 12- year-old Catherine Clinch stars as Cait, the neglected child in a dysfunctional home bursting at the seams with children and labouring under the toxic presence of a contemptuous, philandering dirtbag father (Michael Patric). In a rare moment of sense, the parents decide to send Cait to live with an aunt and uncle (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh and Andrew Bennett) in the country. It’s there, despite initial resistance from the grumpy uncle, she experiences genuine compassion for the first time and begins to emerge from beneath a dark cloud but it doesn’t mean all is well in her life.

On paper, this is a very limited story as it simply depicts an anxious young girl’s daily experiences with her aunt and uncle who, as the steadily unspooling story reveals, are themselves trying to deal with a personal tragedy. Still, writer/director Colm Bairead’s honest and thoughtful script and delicate direction makes this a very moving, occasionally confronting slice of life drama.  He makes effective use of locations contrasting Cait’s dark, cramped and mostly unpleasant home with the uncle and aunt’s spacious sunlit property.

In a remarkable feature film debut, young Catherine Clinch displays astonishing subtlety and nuance in her portrayal of Cait. The role requires her to say very little but she’s able to convey volumes with her plaintive facial expressions. It would be a very cold-hearted audience member who wasn’t seriously concerned for her well-being. Chonaonaigh and Bennett are also wonderful, largely because they’re given enough space to deliver affecting and well-rounded performances as Cait’s warm but emotionally wounded aunt and dour, taciturn but well-meaning uncle.

The Quiet Girl is a small film but it’s emotional impact is profound and its low key aesthetic and humanism a wonderful change from the headache inducing cacophony and clutter of most Hollywood films.

Nick’s rating: ****

Genre: Drama

Classification: M

Director(s): Colm Bairead.

Release date: 22nd Sept 2022.

Running time: 94 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm on 88.3 Southern FM.

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