The Quiet Girl (2022) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): The Importance of Being Loved

“The Quiet Girl”, which was recently nominated for Best International Film Oscar as an Irish film, is a little but precious coming-of-age drama about the importance of being loved. Calmly and sensitively following one summer of a little quiet lonely girl, the movie brightens up its mood bit by bit as she is gradually transformed by two good people who really care about her, and it is touching to observe how she and they become much closer to each other than expected in the end.

At the beginning, the screenplay by director/writer Colm Bairéad, which is based on Clair Keegan’s novella “Foster”, economically establishes the stark and loveless domestic environment surrounding its 9-year-old heroine in some rural area of Ireland, 1981. Although she has a family to live with, Cáit (Catherine Clinch) has been mostly neglected and disregarded by both of her crummy parents at their home, and her several siblings do not provide much comfort or consolation at all. Even when she is in her school, she is often left alone without anyone to play with her, and we are not so surprised when she later commits a minor act of transgression.

While Cáit is going through another depressing evening at her home, the movie lets us know a bit more about the poor economic condition of her domestic environment. While her father clearly does not have much affection for her or any other sibling of hers, her mother is soon going to have another child despite that, and that is the No. 1 priority for her at present. Eventually, they decide to send Cáit to the farm of her distant female cousin and her husband, and Cáit follows their decision without much resistance while maintaining her usual passive attitude, though she is certainly afraid of this sudden change.

When Cáit subsequently arrive at their farm along with her father, Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) warmly welcomes Cáit in contrast to her taciturn husband Seán (Andrew Bennett), and she instinctively senses how much Cáit has been unloved. Although Cáit’s first night at the farm is not exactly pleasant, Eibhlín tries as much as possible for showing Cáit that she can be more relaxed and comfortable, and Cáit slowly comes to show more of herself as she begins to trust Eibhlín more day by day.

In case of Seán, he is initially reluctant to show care and affection, but then he comes to care a lot about Cáit as he lets her assist him in several farmworks of his. At one point, he becomes rather harsh to her because of an understandable reason, but he sincerely apologizes to her later, and he really tries to compensate for that.

Thanks to the care and love from Seán and Eibhlín, Cáit becomes a little more spirited and active than before, and the movie subtly reflects her emotional changes via mood and details. As summer days peacefully continue around her and her accidental foster parents, the screen feels brighter and warmer compared to the barren ambiance of the early part of the film, and that is more than enough for us to sense how much our little young heroine is changed and matured.

In the meantime, the movie also pays some attention to what Eibhlín and Seán have kept to themselves for years. As revealed by one rather mean neighbor of theirs later in the story, there is a painful incident in the past with they have to live for the rest of their life, and there is a somber but powerful scene when Seán has a little serious night conversation with Cáit outside while Eibhlín has a very private moment outside the screen.

Around the time when the movie eventually enters its last act, we come to see and understand how much Cáit and her foster parents love and care about each other, and that is why it is saddening to observe that their happy time will not last as long as they hoped. Even at that narrative point, the movie steadily maintains its restrained attitude while clearly conveying us to the subsequent emotional pains from its main characters, and that makes its quiet melodramatic finale all the more powerful.

Bairéad, who incidentally made a feature film debut here, draws good performances from his three main cast members. As the emotional center of the film, young performer Catherine Clinch gives one of the most notable child performances of last year, and her unadorned natural acting ably anchors the film from the beginning to the end. Around Clilch, Carrie Crowley and Andrew Bennett embody the genuine human decency of their respective characters, and Crowley is particularly wonderful when Eibhlín gently and patiently treats Cáit during their first encounter. As her husband says, Eibhlín always sees the good sides of people around her, and she certainly brings out something good from a child who really needs to be cared and loved.

Overall, “The Quiet Girl” may require some patience from you due to its rather slow narrative pacing, but it will eventually engage you as an intimate human story of love, compassion, and empathy. No matter what will happen next, she comes to learn about being loved at least, and I can only hope that she will never forget that while eventually becoming capable of giving love and affection for herself.

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1 Response to The Quiet Girl (2022) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): The Importance of Being Loved

  1. Pingback: My Prediction on the 95th Academy Awards | Seongyong's Private Place

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