“The Quiet Girl” comes to the M.V. Film Center on Friday, March 10. Set in rural Ireland in 1981, it tells the poignant story of a 9-year-old Irish girl named Cáit, played by Catherine Clinch. Written and directed by Colm Bairéad, with dialogue primarily in Irish, this simple, touching tale has been nominated for the Oscars’ Best Foreign Film, as well as many other nominations, including two wins at the Berlin International Film Festival and seven at the Irish Film and Television Awards.
Cáit, a shy and withdrawn girl, lives with her neglecting and dysfunctional parents, Mam (Carrie Crowley) and Da (Michael Patric), along with her many siblings. The beginning of the film sets up Cáit’s personality by showing her at school being picked on by other classmates, including her own siblings.
Mam is pregnant with yet another child, so Cáit is packed off to live for the summer with the Cinnsealachs, a family whom she has never met. Cáit arrives with no luggage, thanks to a forgetful Da. Unlike Mam, her cousin Eibhlin Cinnsealach (Carrie Crowley) is welcoming and loving, although her husband Seán remains aloof.
In an episode that will take on meaning later, Eibhlin gives Cáit some ill-fitting boy’s clothes to wear until she can purchase appropriate girl’s attire. Eibhlin teaches Cáit how to help her do chores around the house and farm. In this supportive new environment, Cáit begins to open up. In one of the chores, Eibhlin takes Cáit to a well to fill water buckets, a place Eibhlin suggests is healing but dangerous.
While Eibhlin is away, Seán is shown left in charge of Cáit while cleaning the cow barn. When she runs off exploring, an angry Seán reprimands her. The film uses this episode to illustrate the beginning of affection Seán develops for Cáit, something not seen with Cáit’s Da.
Another episode takes place at a wake, where the Cinnsealachs decide to stay but are concerned about its effect on Cáit. So she is sent home with a nosy neighbor, who reveals to Cáit that the Cinnsealachs have lost a little boy who died in an accident at a toxic slurry pit where animal waste is stored.
Once she’s given birth, Mam asks for Cáit to return home. In the meantime, Cáit visits the well and, with her bucket now filled and heavy, falls in. An upset Eibhlin looks for her and at last finds her coming back soaking wet. Deeply saddened by their impending loss, the Cinnsealachs take Cáit back to her parents.
Although children may enjoy it, too, “The Quiet Girl” is a childhood story meant for adults. The life of Cáit is narrated with such beauty that each touching episode in the film rings true.
Information and tickets for “The Quiet Girl” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.