This Irish drama has a voice.
Being of Irish descent, I was easily delighted to know that “The Quiet Girl” is the first Irish feature to be nominated in the Oscar’s Best International Feature category. I find no offense to the subtitles being added, because of its Irish Gaelic language, and it does use English dialogue. In fact, the original title is “An Cailín Ciúin.”
Whether we’re talking about foreign films or movies about deaf people (like the Oscar-winning “CODA”), I think subtitles are helpful in case you didn’t understand a certain sentence, even in English-spoken movies. As Ciaran Hinds said in “Belfast,” “If they can’t understand you, they aren’t listening. Even without the subtitles, I was listening, and I was understanding the characters. And believe me, they are beautiful souls.
I don’t think “The Quiet Girl” named Cait (newcomer Catherine Clinch) is autistic, but she also doesn’t say much, which is a common condition. Some people don’t really have the words, but they do have the emotions to express themselves. Dispositions, tears, and moods are honest examples. She does talk from time to time, but she mostly remains quiet. She’s ignored by her parents and her siblings. In fact, her pregnant mom sends her to live with her distant cousin Eibhlín Cinnsealach (Carrie Crowley) and her husband Sean (Andrew Bennett) on their farm for the summer.
The fact that she’s the only child in their house, she’s able to speak with them. Back home, that’s a whole other story. She’s able to learn some interesting things with them, such as wakes, their dairy production, and a tragedy that struck them long before her arrival.
Eibhlin shows the kind of love and affection for Cait, while Sean takes a while to grow some affection for her. Could these people be the ideal parents for her? Or can life surprise her in a most unexpected way? Sounds like formulaic questions, but the movie doesn’t have to be that way. “The Quiet Girl” is a somber piece that knows the meaning of the word “sincerity.”
When you see Clinch, Crowley, and Bennett in universally excellent performances, you’re seeing something magical in their characters. They’re not trying to be generic characters-the kind you see in American movies-but rather human beings with souls and emotions. I love how the girl finds her voice at her first summer home, how the cousin shows her motherly love, and how her husband transitions his perspectives as the story continues. Writer/director Colm Bairead adapts Claire Keegan’s short story “Foster,” and this is his first known feature. And I mean the kind of Oscar-nominated known feature.
In an Oscar season with “The Banshees of Inisherin” in the mix, I’m really loving how these Irish films never condescend my roots, but rather present them in truthful aspects. You don’t always have to listen to “The Irish Washerwoman” all the time. You just have to acknowledge these characters and their realities. And with such beautiful locations and clear atmospheres, there’s a strong sense of authenticity. And now that I look at it, this movie reminds me a little of “The Secret of Roan Inish,” which also was about a visiting young girl, who also learns some things about her family. That film was made for family audiences-the kind of who don’t always rely on noisy children’s entertainment. “The Quiet Girl” is made for adults who don’t understand the crap that comes out of kids’ mouths.
I promise you: Cait is a little angel.
In Select Theaters This Friday