take the hype away. The quiet girlWriter and Director Colm Bairéad’s Masterful Adaptation of Claire Keegan’s Story To feed, marks a triumphant breakthrough for films in Irish. We saw it coming.
Tom Sullivan got the ball rolling with last year’s internationally acclaimed, award-winning Famine epic, Sample† HideoutSeán Breathnach’s recent country drama, as Gaeilge, received some of the best reviews of the year. The quiet girl close the deal.
As proud producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoí confirmed when taking home the Best Picture award at this year’s IFTAs – where it took home a further six trophies – this is a “turning point for Irish language cinema”. Indeed.
Backed by TG4, Screen Ireland and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Cine4 initiative (a worthy funding scheme that guarantees the annual development and production of theatrical Irish language projects), this delicate, deeply moving display also received a prestigious Grand Prix jury award at this year the Berlin International Film Festival. Could Bairéad’s movie become a supernova? Of course we hope so.
The story is set in the Irish countryside in 1981. The excellent Catherine Clinch is Cáit, a quiet, watchful nine-year-old whose exhausting mother (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) is expecting another child. The house is already full of mean, unloved siblings. Mom is exhausted. Papa (Michael Patric) is a bit of an idiot, a useless cheater and a huge waste of space drinking and gambling with whatever money he makes.
Life is utterly joyless and unbearably empty for Cáit and when school ends for the summer, the youngster’s parents decide that her presence is no longer necessary and the girl is sent to visit her mother’s cousin Eibhlín (a never-better Carrie Crowley). ) to live.
Video of the day
The thing is, Cáit has never met Eibhlín before. She and her husband Seán (Andrew Bennett) have no children and—judging by the look on Cáit’s face—our pensive protagonist worries that living in a different house under different guardians will bring more of the same old type of misery and neglect. However, as summer casts its soft, dreamlike spell over their home, Cáit discovers a new lease of life in this caring, tranquil haven.
The kind, affectionate Eibhlín forms an immediate bond with Cáit, calming her fears and anxieties with proper care and conversation. Even Seán – a distant farmer and a man of few words – comes out of his shell.
The couple is in love with Cáit and Eibhlín assures the girl that this is a safe place, that she is free to live her life as a child and that there are no secrets in their house. But Eibhlín and Seán are hiding their own tragic secret, and it won’t be long before Cáit reveals it.
A languid, lyrical piece, The quiet girl is a simple, straight forward story, but it tells it beautifully, it takes its time and allows the cast to inhabit their characters in ways not often seen in Irish cinema.
Too many domestic features give way to endless streams of stilted, stage dialogue and breathless overacting. Not this one, and Bairéad’s spare, slow-burning display only talks when needed.
The result is a soulful, life-affirming drama of rare quality and depth. It is a rich, heartbreaking portrayal of loneliness, loss and longing experienced through the eyes of a wise and wistful child.
Newcomer Clinch – the spellbinding, beating heart of this story – delivers a performance with such astonishing power and conviction that you’d never know this is her first screen role. Cáit can be seen in practically every scene, and Bairéad’s film requires a capable and impressive protagonist to keep everyone and indeed everything in place. Clinch is that actor.
Bennett, meanwhile, is fantastic as a man whose workday is vastly improved by the presence of a playful helper. He and Clinch make a wonderful combination. Likewise, Crowley is exceptional, and together this magnificent trio brings to life a remarkable story of childhood, family and grief.
Beautifully photographed by Kate McCullough, with a superb score by Stephen Rennicks, The quiet girl touched me in ways I never expected.
It knocked the wind out of me. It moved me to tears and stayed with me for days. It’s one of the most accomplished, most satisfying coming-of-age dramas I’ve seen – an impeccably, fantastically curated offering that deserves all the good that comes its way.
An extraordinary Irish film.
Also on display
IFI and selected cinemas; Certificate 16
Gaspar Noé is never one to make things easy for us. By movies like irreversible (2002), Love (2015), and Climax (2018), this contemporary enfant terrible of French cinema has taken us through ultra-violence, explicit sexual functioning and trembling psychological terror. In VortexNoé takes us into another disturbing realm of human existence – old age.
Through a split screen we get to see the last days of writer Lui (real-life Italian film director Dario Argento) and psychiatrist Elle (Françoise Lebrun), a couple in the winter of their lives. In a homey but cluttered apartment that reflects the entire life they’ve lived together, they negotiate Elle’s recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Lui, who has a bad heart condition, and their recovering addict son (Alex Lutz) do what they can except fight their own fights. A real sense of inevitability develops given their stage of life, along with questions of love, loyalty and how ‘addicted’ to medication we are.
Vortex is devastating to watch, but by abandoning the provocations and going to sleep in the seemingly mundane, Noé has managed to capture the tragically routine character of ‘the departure lounge’. Hilary White
The driver’s wife
In selected cinemas; Certificate 15
Between the endemic atrocities committed against the First Nation people and the scorched, treacherous landscape, colonial-era Australia is a dark historical period to portray on film. Written, directed and starred by Aboriginal artist Leah Purcell, this feature film debut taps into that sense of dread by telling a sort of feminist revenge western.
Purcell plays Molly Johnson, abandoned by her drover husband to care for their four children in the remote Australian Alps. Life is hard, but so is the gun-toting Molly, who fiercely defends their small business. When an Aboriginal fugitive (Rob Collins) shows up looking for shelter, she sympathizes and takes him along as a helping hand.
This will add further complications to Molly’s already challenging existence, most notably the attention of a new local law enforcement officer (Sam Reid) trying to make a name for himself.
Aside from engaged performances and breathtaking landscapes, Purcell’s film is full of suspense, beauty and pathos. Tonally, however, things often go wrong. A major culprit here is Salliana Seven Campbell’s lavish score, which can dilute any scene’s potency. Hilary White
In cinemas; Certificate 15A
Save it under “better than expected”. Indeed, one of the strangest things about this structurally disorganized, faith-based drama is that, even at its messiest, Father Stu remains a surprisingly acceptable undertaking.
It’s the early 1990s and Mark Wahlberg is Stuart Long, a boxer from Montana. Concerned mother Kathleen (the ever-trustworthy Jacki Weaver) wants him to stop. Alcoholic dad Bill (a solid Mel Gibson) is off the rails.
Obviously Mom knows best and, after he hangs up his gloves, Stuart heads west to become a Hollywood superstar (don’t ask). It turns out that life – and indeed God – has other ideas for the dude and, after meeting a Sunday school teacher named Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), and surviving a horrific road accident, our wisecracking boxer decides to become a priest.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and first writer/director Rosalind Ross’ sketchy, unfocused drama – based on a fascinating true story – probably bites off more than it can chew. Still, it’s never boring, and a watchable Marky Mark adds a nice comedic touch to the proceedings. In a word? grand. Chris Wasser