‘The Quiet Girl’ – Review

Colm Bairéad’s Irish language film is a visual marvel, and a touching story about the importance of found family.

*This review contains spoilers for The Quiet Girl.*

Colm Bairéad’s The Quiet Girl tells the story of a young girl named Cáit (Catherine Clinch), who is sent away to stay with her family’s distant cousins (Carrie Crowley and Andrew Bennett), as her neglectful parents prepare to make room another child. As Cáit adjusts to new life with her temporary caretakers, she is shown love and kindness for the first time in her life. The Irish film is nominated for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Academy Awards. 

This film can best be categorized as simple but lovely. The story is not complex, but is paced well. The visual aspects of this film, set in early 1980s Ireland, are a visual wonder, almost like each frame is a work of art in a museum. The screenplay (spoken primarily in Irish language) is simple, but heartfelt. It would be easy for the film to drag, but it never does. It’s charming to watch this young girl experience the love and care that she has been deprived of for her entire life. 

The performances in this film are fantastic. To be so young, Clinch masters an ability to portray such a level of vulnerability through her character of Cáit. Her childlike innocence adds a layer of vulnerability and heartwarming charm, as one can’t help but feel moved watching her story. She also carries the film well, serving as the protagonist with very little time offscreen. Her chemistry with Crowley and Bennett, who play her foster parents, is palpable and moving to see. It’s interesting to watch Cáit develop her own relationship with both Eibhlín and Seán. 

There’s an instant connection between Cáit and Eibhlín, that instantly evokes feelings of maternal care that Cáit is not used to. Even simple measures of kindness go a long way. That connection is not as instant with Seán, but that allows for a development of a backstory that raises the stakes for the story, which keeps it from playing too one-note. We eventually learn that Eibhlín is eager and open to a relationship with Cáit because doing so at least attempts to fill the hole in her heart left by the death of her only child. Likewise, this serves as the same reason Seán is reluctant to get close to Cáit, thus exploring the complexities of grief and the different ways it can impact someone. 

As such, Crowley and Bennett give wonderful performances as the grieving foster parents, with a level of honesty and vulnerability to their performances that elevate them to something magnetic. Crowley approaches her character with a level of maternal warmness that is well suited for the role. While Bennett is a bit more closed off, as his character is meant to be, he maintains a level of humanity that keeps him from appearing cold, to the point where the eventual connection made between Cáit and Seán is believable. 

While nothing about The Quiet Girl is particularly groundbreaking, its ability to be such an impactful movie with such a level of understated simplicity is in many ways impressive. Harping on the continuously relevant theme of chosen family, this film serves as a lovely watch, and a worthy contender for the Best International Feature Film category. 

Grade: A-

Oscar Prospects:
Nominated: Best International Feature Film
Should Have Been Nominated: Best Cinematography

Release Date: February 23, 2023
Where to Watch: In Select Theaters

Lex Williams
she/her @alexiswilli_
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett
Sign: Capricorn

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