An Irish-language film has broken box office records in Ireland and the UK, becoming a standard-bearer of a language rarely seen on the big screen.
The Quiet Girl has stunned the industry by quadrupling the previous record for an Irish-language film, earning over €610,000 (£518,000) last week since its release in mid-May.
Its success is considered all the more surprising because it is a coming-of-age drama without famous actors, by a budding director.
“It has exceeded all expectations,” said Robert McCann Finn, co-founder of Breakout Pictures, the film’s Irish distributor.
Directed by Colm Bairéad, and based on the New Yorker story that became Claire Keegan’s novella Foster, the film follows a 10-year-old girl who is forced to spend a summer with foster parents on a farm in County Waterford in the early 1980s. live. † It has won multiple awards and rave reviews from critics. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called it a jewel.
However, such garlands did not prepare the creators for popularity with the public. “The response, especially in Ireland, has struck a chord,” Bairéad said. “It is attractive to all generations. Youngsters and people in their later years who haven’t been to the cinema in years – this has brought them back.”
Since its release in mid-May, An Cailín Ciúin, as it is called in Irish, has been screened in about 70 cinemas on the island of Ireland and about 30 in the UK.
The previous highest-grossing film in Irish was Arracht, a Great Hunger drama that grossed €164,000 in the UK and Ireland last year.
The UK audience was a mix of Irish expats and those with no ties to Ireland, said Jake Garriock, head of distribution strategy for Curzon, the film’s UK distributor. “The British song is better than a good chunk of the films that played in Cannes last year. Even for a title in a foreign language, it’s incredibly impressive.”
The Quiet Girl is Curzon’s very first film in Irish – not that there was much choice before. Until 2017, the total number of live-action feature films in Irish – covering the entirety of cinema history – was four.
However, since 2019, five feature films have been made under the banner of Cine4, a collaboration between Screen Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and TG4, an Irish-language public broadcaster. Arracht and The Quiet Girl each cost 1.2 million euros.
Next in theaters in September is Róise & Frank, a light-hearted, feel-good story about a widow who believes her husband has been reincarnated as a dog.
A Quiet Girl underlines Ireland’s creative talent, said Désirée Finnegan, Chief Executive of Screen Ireland. “It really feels like a new horizon for Irish-language cinema and a beautiful expression of our national culture on screen.”
Few people in Ireland speak Irish on a daily basis and some hate it – a legacy of being forced to learn it through a pompous school curriculum. That’s changing, McCann Finn said. “There is a whole new generation that loves the language. You’d hope it’s the start of something.”
Distributors plan to eventually port A Quiet Girl to a streaming platform and promote it for Baftas and Oscars.
“We are still in the middle of the whirlwind,” said Cleona Ní Chrualaoi, the film producer. The public will soon have the opportunity to see other Irish films in development and production, she said. “I think the wave will continue.”