Reviews by Joyce Glasser The quiet girl (May 13, 2022) Cert. 12A, 94 minutes.
Colm Bairéad’s feature film debut, The quiet girl is easy to overlook. Like his protagonist of the same name, he is calm and sensitive without a prominent cast. That it doesn’t have a major plot and is in Gaelic with subtitles is perhaps not an initial selling point either, although the unknown cast and the Gaelic language enhance the story, which is set in rural Ireland around 1980.
to be overlooked The quiet girl would be to underestimate one of the most difficult tasks a director can afford: dramatizing the unfolding relationships between three people over a summer season and making sure you care about the outcome.
Adapting his script from Claire Keegan’s short story Support financially, Bairéad elicits tension and emotional catharsis from this restraint and rewards with an emotional punch at the end that is hard to shake off.
That doesn’t mean the movie is perfect, but the big flaw comes in the first ten minutes. Unhappy with her dysfunctional life at home and at school, little Cáit (Catherine Clinch) responds by withdrawing into herself. She hardly speaks and seems to have no friends. The skinny, pretty little girl in old-fashioned dress shares a ramshackle farmhouse with her perpetually pregnant, exhausted mother (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh), her alcoholic, gambling, good-for-nothing father (Michael Patric) and siblings she doesn’t relate to. Cáit is eight or nine and still wets the bed.
The house is spartan without any comfort. A meal is slices of bread. The hay is not yet harvested and the new baby is born at the same time as the new calf. Something has to go, and it’s Cáit, who will be spending the summer with her mother’s childless cousin, Eibhlin (Carrie Crowley), and her husband, Sean Kinsella (Andrew Bennett).
Caught in this familiar, miserable porn setting, you might want to head for the exit, but resist, because it’s this facility that makes what follows so welcome.
After a boring, hot, silent journey with her gruff, grumpy father, Cáit arrives at a beautiful, immaculate, old stone farmhouse and is given a warm welcome by Eibhlin. You can tell the couple is uncomfortable with the father lacking any semblance of social grace. Eibhlin is horrified by his behavior at dinner as he stubs out a cigarette on his plate and doesn’t even say goodbye to his daughter.
Eibhlin realizes too late that he drove off with Cáit’s suitcase in the trunk of his car, and she begins to worry about her cousin living with such a brute. When she asks Cáit why the hay was late, Cáit innocently replies that her mother did not have the money to pay the hired hands to harvest the hay. Eibhlin can only guess where the money went. “God help you,” she murmurs spontaneously. ‘If you were mine, I would never let you in a house with strangers.’
But in this case, it turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to Cáit.
However, she is cautious when she realizes that there are no children in the house. Cáit has never been the center of attention and has never experienced such calm and tranquillity. When Eibhlin makes the mistake of leaving Cáit with the busybody of the community, we also begin to realize that, like Cáit, the pair are outcasts – and the subject of double-sided gossip. The simple premise expands as we begin to focus on the adult couple’s vulnerability and loneliness, and not just their ward.
Eibhlin is a tactile woman, perhaps a little too infatuated, and we soon get a glimpse of why. She combs Cáit’s hair slowly and rhythmically, like some kind of therapy, but for whom? And Eibhlin watches as Cáit carefully steps into the steaming bath as if it were a tidal pool, glad to offer the girl that little luxury.
Water becomes important again when Eibhlin takes Cáit to the Well, a place of life and a place of danger and death. “There are no secrets in this house,” Eibhlin tells Cáit. “When there are secrets, there is shame.”
But actually there is a big secret in the house. There are clues that the audience will discover, but not Cáit. On her first night in someone else’s house, sleeping in her own room for the first time in her life, her eyes and ours land on the old wallpaper, which is decorated with miniature trains. And since Cáit has nothing left to wear after her father’s carelessness, Eibhlin takes some old clothes out of the closet. Although they appear to fit the child, which is surprising, they appear to be boy’s clothing.
While meals are healthy and regular and Cáit Eibhlin is happy to help with the cooking, Sean remains aloof and reserved. After showing irritation when Cáit goes to church in boyish clothes, Eibhlin takes her shopping and she has her first brand new stylish outfit.
Due to misinterpreted signals, Cáit’s first time alone with Sean is a disaster. When she goes into the barn, Sean is alerted and searches for her, distraught that she had an accident while he was watching. Cáit interprets his panic as anger and she flinches.
Next time, however, Cáit strives to be useful around the barn, observing and following Sean’s chores. And gradually Cáit notices signs of approach: a biscuit lying on the table, a reward, a symbol. Soon there will be ice cream and excursions that most children take for granted.
One day, Sean asks Cáit to run to the mailbox at the end of a long, tree-lined alley between the property and the road. He is impressed by her speed and she basks in the praise. This daily quest becomes routine as Sean timing it. The camera focuses on Cáit’s face as she runs with abandon and a smile on her face. This motif returns at the end of the film in such a poetic and cathartic way that the depth of the emotions sweeps you away.
A quiet film with great emotional impact.
Source link A quiet film with great emotional impact.