Aftersun, the Banchees of Inisher, An Irish Goodbye and The Quiet Girl are all films from 2022 that received Oscar nominations for the 95th Academy Awards. Given its success, many people have preached about a “green wave”, and that Irish cinema is having a Moment. Of course, there have always been great Irish filmmakers (Jim Sheridan, Martin McDonagh, Lenny Abrahamson and the great Neil Jordan come to mind) who go back to the 1920s with Rex Ingram and the four horsemen of The Apocalypse, but it’s true — something was different in 2022.
Part of this difference comes from the fact that The Quiet Girl (or An cailín Ciúin) is the first Irish-language film nominated for an Oscar. The nominee for the best international feature film deviates from the English of most Irish productions, which makes it extremely authentic and from a certain place and a certain time. Calm Máiréad’s film is a magnificent and moving image that lives up to the muted connotations of its title, but manages to be more moving than many stronger and melodramatic films of the same genre. He is a certified tearjerker and a pretty excellent one on top of that.
Little intrigue, but A lot Of love
The film is told from the point of view of nine-year-old Cáit, who lives with his parents and a handful of siblings in a small overcrowded house in rural Ireland around 1981. Her endlessly upset and increasingly bitter mother is pregnant, and her father seems to be a somewhat useless alcoholic, but again, she and everything else seem to be seen from the child’s eyes. Concerned about food shortages and Cáit’s dreamy and wandering tendencies, the parents send him to distant relatives.
They are the Kinsellas, Eibhlín and her husband Seán, who have a beautiful house and a farm several kilometers away (probably in Leinster, where the surname was born 900 years ago). They immediately welcome the young Cáit, although Seán is a much more reclusive and silent man, similar to The child. She is sent to work, but does not work hard; she is not in charge of scrubbing the floor with a Cinderella-style toothbrush, but of milking the cows and helping with the baking of cookies.
This is essentially the plot of the film. Not much happens in the Quiet Girl’s lively 94 minutes, and it’s pretty glorious. It is a film that appreciates the little things, documents the budding relationship and love between a child and his new parental figures, and explores the fears and lack of control that accompany childhood. Unlike other films that focus on children who want to escape their nightmare from home and live a better life elsewhere (Matilda, Harry Potter, Cinderella), Bairéad’s Film spends most of its time on “elsewhere” rather than on the “nightmare”.”It’s honestly cute to look at.
The calm girl is emotional and beautiful
However, there are issues that come from the characters and feelings rather than the narrative. The Film can be emotionally painful, even if it is full of compassion and beauty. There are tragedies that some characters face; there is the inevitability that it cannot be an endless summer and that reality will finish the whole thing when Cáit’s parents take her back; there is fear, insecurity and melancholy.
But the calm girl is never emotionally manipulative about these things and never cheats. Even the score (by Stephen Rennicks) does not tear hearts, but sounds like the ambient decor that would accompany a memory. It’s very pretty, but also rarely intrusive, which is another refreshing quality for a Film about childhood.
Bairéad’s approach corresponds here to his career as a documentary filmmaker, involving a lot of patient observation and immersion in a world. The silent girl is just like that, calmly looks at summer and meditates on her little tragedies and beauties, and he is handsome. The film often resembles a Terrence Malick film for children and families, flooded with beautiful natural cinematography and close-ups of people involved in internal conflicts. Kate McCullough had shot with Bairéad on documentaries, and her work here captures the same sense of observation of presence.
Crowley and Bennett give perfect performances
Catherine Clinch is great as Cáit, although she is more the audience’s entry point into the world of cinema. True to the title, she doesn’t talk too much, but the whole Film is filtered through her perception. It’s a subtle role that fits wonderfully with the two immensely moving and perfect performances here -Carrie Crowley as Eibhlín and Andrew Bennett as Seán.
Crowley touches like a deeply maternal figure who understands the girl’s anxiety and fears When she moves into this new house and does everything she can to make Cáit feel safe and loved. She is brilliant with the little moments, like the scene where she enters the room and discovers that Cáit wet the bed at night; she comforts Cáit and speculates that the mattress was crying.’