THE QUIET GIRL is based upon a short story by Claire Keegan, whose Small Things Like These was my pick of the Booker Prize longlist last year. That title would as well fit this story. As it opens, we see a young, sensitive, quiet girl called Cait stuck in a noisy, violent, dark, chaotic, cramped house full of unwanted children, a pregnant mother and an alcoholic father. Seemingly arbitrarily, Cait is chosen to go and live with the mother's childless and older relatives who live in a modest but well-ordered working farm. The contrast is stark. Eibhlín and Sean are emotionally worn but kind and caring, even if it takes Sean a while to learn how to warm up. They are nurturing and proud and appreciate her quiet self-restraint. Over the course of the film we come to find out the reason for their melancholy and see the sparks of hope and love that this relationship gives them and Cait. By the end of the film I felt utterly invested in their future and profoundly moved.
All this is testament to the restrained and nuanced performances from the three leads - newcomer Catherine Clinch as Cait and Carrie Crowley and Andrew Bennett as her foster parents. It's also testament to the way in which Bairead and DP Kate McCullough choose to frame action within early 80s Ireland's cramped rooms that seem to contain a thousand emotions. The choice of Academy ratio really works here.
THE QUIET GIRL is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 94 minutes. It played Berlin 2022 and was released last year in the USA and UK. It is nominated for the Best Foreign Language film Oscar.