The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/Curzon] - AN CAILÍN CIÚIN (THE QUIET GIRL) | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review [Cinema/Curzon] - AN CAILÍN CIÚIN (THE QUIET GIRL)

an cailin ciuin the quiet girl review
A young girl experiences love for the first time when she is sent to spend a summer with distant relations.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Colm Bairéad

Starring: Catherine Clinch, Carrie Crowley, Andrew Bennett, Michael Patric, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh

an cailin ciuin the quiet girl review


Like its eponymous protagonist, director Colm Bairéad's An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) is what we in Ireland might call "a little dote" of a film. It's filmed in the Irish language, but it's the unspoken words that fuel its narrative. This is a very Irish movie about how we Irish keep our troubles to ourselves. Contrary to the false American invented "Fighting Irish" stereotype, we're a nation of people who will do anything to avoid confrontation, who find it difficult to ask for help, to confess our feelings. Betrayed by the Church and wary of psychiatry, we have nowhere to turn to for therapy but art, and Bairéad's film is as therapeutic as they come. I've often said that Japanese movies feel a lot more Irish than Irish movies, but An Cailín Ciúin is an Irish movie that plays like a Japanese movie. Could Bairéad be Ireland's Ozu?

An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) review

The quiet girl in question is Cáit (Catherine Clinch), a nine-year-old member of an overcrowded household ruled by a father (Michael Patric) who couldn't give a damn and a mother (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) who simply doesn't have enough love to go around. When her mother gets pregnant once again (this is 1981, when contraception was still shunned by many Catholics in Ireland), Cáit is sent to spend the summer with her mother's cousin Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley, an actress with the warmth of Maureen O'Hara) and her husband Seán (Andrew Bennett).

An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) review

There, Cáit finds everything she's been lacking from her real home and her real parents. Eibhlín is sympathetic rather than scornful when it comes to her bed-wetting and teaches her the ways of farm life, and there's lots of space for Cáit to explore. But that space is filled with a lot of emptiness. There's an unspoken sadness shared between Eibhlín and Seán, and while the former dotes over Cáit, the latter finds it difficult to have the child in his presence.


An Cailín Ciúin thus becomes a story of a young girl finding a surrogate father and a troubled man discovering a daughter. We watch as Seán slowly opens his heart to Cáit in a very Irish, very male way. Like the great Japanese films, this is a movie that plays out in small gestures that speak volumes. The simple sight of a biscuit (that Irish favourite, the Kimberley) left on a table makes for one of the year's most cinematic moments. Nobody breaks down and delivers expository speeches about what they're dealing with here, because they're Irish and that's not how we roll. Eibhlín and Seán never tell each other they love one another, but you'll struggle to find a couple more infatuated with each other's presence. The love on display in Bairéad's film is as tactile as the tension in a Hitchcock thriller.

An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) review

It's a movie that possesses a soothing quality. Watching its beautifully composed images flicker by is like thumbing though a forgotten pop-up book rediscovered in an attic. It may evoke feelings of how your childhood was, or how it should have been. It features one of the best child performances I've ever witnessed, and it's made by a director who seems possessed by the spirit of John Ford, who knows that how people look at each other is more important than what they say to each other. Cáit wishes she could stay on this farm forever, and by the movie's end you'll know exactly how she feels.

An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) is in UK/ROI cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from May 13th.



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