In Review

Film review: The Quiet Girl

Moving coming-of-age film set in 1980s Ireland

“If you are the sort of filmgoer who only ventures into arthouse territory a couple of times a year”, make this Irish “gem” one of the films you see, said Matthew Bond in The Mail on Sunday. Based on a novella by Claire Keegan, the film follows Cáit (Catherine Clinch), a girl growing up on an impoverished smallholding in rural Ireland in the 1980s. Barely ten, with a careworn mother and a perpetually hungover father, Cáit is bullied and miserable, until she’s sent to live with her mother’s cousin (Carrie Crowley) and her husband (Andrew Bennett). Under their care, her life is “transformed” – but it’s unclear how long she will be able to stay with her new family. Clinch is brilliant, as is Crowley as her surrogate mother, who soon becomes closer to her than her own mother has ever been. In all, it’s a “deeply moving” film about “innocence and loneliness”, which has a power that lingers long after the credits have rolled.

It seems initially to be a modest little story, said Wendy Ide in The Observer, but it “plays on the heartstrings like a harp”. First-time feature director Colm Bairéad has a knack for “telling us everything we need to know without words”: a stand-off over some sticks of rhubarb, for example, “is more eloquent than pages of dialogue could ever be”. 

The film arrives in cinemas “on unprecedented waves” of acclaim, said Donald Clarke in The Irish Times, but there’s no danger that the “weight of expectation will crush this delicately beautiful gossamer construction”: it deserves the hype. Although there is “a pervasive sense of unspoken menace lurking just outside the frame”, the film is also a “celebration of uncomplicated human kindness”. The result is an “unqualified success”.

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