“The Quiet Girl,” based on Claire Keegan’s beautiful novel, Foster, which I reviewed here, is the first film in the Irish language to be nominated for an Oscar, and it’s easy to see why. It retains most of the story from the original source, and draws tremendous depth and emotion from the unsaid and misunderstood. The final scene, like the book’s, will pretty much wreck you, but it’s well earned in every way. There’s no emotional manipulation in sight — in the novel or the film.
Directed by Colm Bairéad, “The Quiet Girl” (“An Cailín Ciúin” in Irish) shows more than it tells, but that’s more than enough to feel the story unfold. It uses visuals as if from the perspective of the girl, echoing the novel’s approach, but uses silence in a different way. Actual silence. Actual breaks between words spoken and heard, primarily in Irish. We see the protagonist, given the name Cáit for the film, out of sorts with her environment at home and school, and then shuffled off to unknown relatives for the summer. We watch as she comes into her own, in subtle, quiet ways, finding something there, among the Kinsellas, she never knew before. Something unsaid but vital and remarkable and worth more than all the crystal in Waterford.
No trumpets blare to announce all of this, and the pace may seem slow, but it’s necessarily that way. Necessary to the story and the way some lives interact, evolve, learn enough about each other to make a difference. The director never tries to hit us over the head with anything. He just shows the seemingly disconnected things that make this process move forward, and hints, like the book, at what the quiet girl’s future might be someday.
A beautiful, remarkable film that lingers where it should and never gets ahead of itself, or Cáit.