Synopsis: Rural Ireland 1981. A quiet, neglected girl is sent away from her dysfunctional family to live with foster parents for the summer. She blossoms in their care, but in this house where there are meant to be no secrets, she discovers one.
Stars: Catherine Clinch, Carrie Crowley, Andrew Bennett, Michael Patric, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Carolyn Bracken, Joan Sheehy
Director: Colm Bairéad
Running Length: 94 minutes
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: Each year, when the Oscar nominations are announced, it’s a given that most audiences will scramble to see whatever has been nominated in the Best Picture category. These are, after all, the films that are easy to access, usually the “popular” and most “mainstream” choices. I’m the Oscar nerd that scans down the list and looks immediately for what has been selected as the five nominees in the Best International Feature (formerly Best Foreign Film) category.
Of particular note this year was the Irish entry The Quiet Girl from writer/director Colm Bairéad. Adapted from Claire Keegan’s short story, ‘Foster’, it’s the first entry from Ireland ever to be nominated in this category in the history of the Academy Awards. That’s a reasonably big deal. Of course, I was most intrigued to see what pushed this ahead of several other imposing titles on the Oscar shortlist, several of which were anticipated to snag a nomination but wound up empty-handed on nomination morning.
It turns out the Academy made a delightful choice nominating this sweet, sincere, beautifully special film. It’s a small picure that’s so delicate you don’t want to hold it too close for fear it might break, but mighty in its themes of family and how simple acts of kindness can effect major change. That it’s nominated against louder films involving war, dictatorial conflict, intense relationships, and a world seen through the eyes of a burdened animal makes it all the more remarkable in its strong voice.
Young Cáit (Catherine Clinch, fantastic and bright) is a shy and withdrawn girl who is too much to handle for her pregnant mother and troubled family. Desperate for some reprieve, her mother reaches out to distant cousins hundreds of miles away, hoping they’d be willing to take her for the summer. They agree, and soon Cáit is off without warning to a new home with unfamiliar adults that offer her a house of stability and acceptance she is unaccustomed to. More than that, it is a home where shame has no place, and no sacrifice is required for daily happiness. It is a good home with good people, but how long can it last?
You watch movies long enough, and they can stop casting a spell on you. Then a film like The Quiet Girl walks up alongside you, overtaking you with you ever realizing it. Bairéad doesn’t wallow in any negativity that could be explored here. I was thankfully turned around to something more intriguing whenever I feared we were going in the wrong direction. That’s partly because of the wise guidance of its director but primarily due to the performances from Clinch and Carrie Crowley as her wise relative. Crowley is impressive throughout, and I’d imagine that, like me, wanting another film exploring her character is something most audiences will be hoping for.
It’s assumed that All Quiet on the Western Front will take home the Oscar in the Best International Feature category, and with its impressive filmmaking, it wouldn’t be a bad win. How nice would it be to reward this Irish offering, though? A first-time nominee and a beautifully crafted one, at that. The performances are winning, the delivery confident…it’s a full package.