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The Crack Magazine

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Film of the Month: The Quiet Girl

Director: Colm Bairéad

Stars: Catherine Clinch, Carrie Crowley, Andrew Bennett, Michael Partic, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh

Based on a short story by Claire Keegan, the feature debut from writer-director Bairéad, is part coming-of-age tale and part soulful rumination on family bonds and grieving. It’s summer 1981 and withdrawn nine-year-old Cáit (Clinch) is living in a rundown farmhouse with her family in rural Ireland. Her mother (Chonaonaigh) is pregnant again and with a feckless husband (Patric) unable to provide the requisite care, Cáit is sent to live with her mother’s relatives, the older and comparatively respectable and affluent couple, Eibhlín (Crowley) and her farmer husband Seán (Bennett). Eibhlín is kind and patient; Seán is initially taciturn and quiet. As her father has forgotten to leave Cáit’s clothes, Eibhlín dresses Cáit up in child-sized jeans and sweaters from the spare room. Seán begins to warm to the girl as she helps with the farming chores. Later, a nosey neighbour casually reveals a devastating secret about the couple. This could be the stuff of melodrama, but the director maintains a low-key lyrical feel, locating moments of grace and beauty in small gestures: Eibhlín lovingly brushing her foster daughter’s hair, Cáit glimpsing her foster parents comforting each other through a half-open door. The understated transcendent quality of these scenes is enhanced by Stephen Rennicks’ rhapsodic gentle swell of strings. It’s exceptionally well-played, particularly the commendably controlled performance from Clinch as Cáit, while Kate McCullough’s cinematography boasts exquisitely-framed interiors. The conclusion is as moving as it is dramatically satisfying.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm

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