Review: Gentle Kindness Propels the Exceptional “The Quiet Girl”

Gentle and measured, but devastatingly powerful, Colm Bairéad’s The Quiet Girl shows how simple acts of kindness can give a child the love years of neglect have stolen away.

Catherine Clinch stars as Cáit, a reserved nine-year-old in a house of many siblings. She lives with her impoverished and neglectful parents (Michael Patric and Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) in rural Ireland. When the mother becomes pregnant again, it is decided to send Cáit to live with middle-aged cousin Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) and her husband Seán (Andrew Bennett) at their farm.

In stark contrast to her home life, Cáit is shown unwavering kindness, patience, and gentle love. The summer sees Cáit grow closer to both Eibhlin and Seán, while a family secret comes out into the open. As the summer draws to a close, Cáit is torn between her true family and the family who has actually shown her love.

More than anything, this is a film about deprogramming. Cáit is by no means showered with special gifts or privileges when she arrives at the farm. Instead, the pair treat Cáit with unprecedented respect; the kind of respect she could never dream to have in her own home. It’s not as simple as not patronizing a child, but more to do with taking the time to teach her skills and spend more time than the bare minimum. Cáit’s entire life has been an afterthought in the minds of her parents and siblings. Eibhlin and Seán find her presence welcoming and warm, which is nothing like she has ever experienced.

It’s not as though Cáit’s home life has been filled with unspeakable horrors, just general neglect. What kind of child would you be if your parents paid no attention to you and you were struggling. Cáit’s difficulties are borne out of no one caring enough to help her. While her family sees the titular quiet girl, the reality is a repressed personality with no outlet to express herself.

That being said, there is no cathartic shouting match or inner thoughts expressed outwardly. A small, well-shot Irish film about a girl living with another family for a summer is as quiet and gentle as it would seem on paper. This is not a film of grand explanations, but of what isn’t being said speaking volumes.

Clinch does so much with such minimal dialogue. Despite being quiet, her characterization is one of reserved curiosity. She obviously wants to be more outgoing and invested in the world, but years of her home life has stifled that development. Just her body language between being in her home setting and being at the farm is worlds apart. Additionally, Clinch is never overly precocious. She is a timid child and acts like a child. It’s downright refreshing when a kid actually acts like a kid.

Crowley and Bennett are equally wonderful in their gentle roles. Crowley is immediately endearing to Cáit and the audience with her genial understanding and warmth. Bennett is a bit of a mystery to start, but quickly grows to love and respect Cáit with equal measure. The couple also have a sweet chemistry of lived-in history.

Bairéad resists every urge to devolve into cliché and exposition. Instead, the story develops slowly and patiently. Kate McCullough’s stunning cinematography makes each blade of grass and leaf on a tree burst with color in a muted existence. By no means flashy, the film is gentle exploration for a thrifty 94 minutes.

The Quiet Girl really took me by surprise. What I thought would be a chore ended up being one of my favorite films of the year. Seek it out and be glad you did.

The Quiet Girl is now playing in select theaters
Score: 4.5/5.0

Florence Pugh Uncovers the Bewitching Mystery of “The Wonder”
Jennifer Lawrence Excels in the Quiet “Causeway”

You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Letterboxd.
Make sure to subscribe and keep up with everything IC4F has to offer! IT’S FREE!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s