Hello World Communications
Hello World Communications - Tools & Services for the Imagination - HWC.TV

Film Festival Today

Founded by Jeremy Taylor

Film Review: “The Quiet Girl” Is a Profound Emotional Experience

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | February 24th, 2023

Film poster: “The Quiet Girl”

The Quiet Girl (Colm Bairéad, 2022) 4 out of 4 stars.

In the days and hours since watching Irish director Colm Bairéad’s exquisite The Quiet Girl, I have found myself bursting into gentle tears at the most unexpected moments, the memory of its painful beauty still fresh. Replete with simultaneously sad and joyful truths about the human condition, the film tells its bittersweet narrative in carefully constructed dramatic strokes, the underlying structure almost invisible as we lose ourselves in its mesmerizing craft. Little by little, we fall under its spell, the melancholy magic seeping in until the final cathartic howl of anguished love bursts forth. Rarely have I felt so moved and devastated. I’m no masochist, but I am definitely ready for another dose of this cinematic potion.

The Quiet Girl is an adaptation of author Claire Keegan’s 2010 novella Foster (which I have not yet read but expect to soon). Set in 1981—and with dialogue almost exclusively in the Irish language—the movie tells the story of a girl, Cáit (Catherine Clinch), one of many in a growing brood of children in what can best be described as a dysfunctional family. She’s the silent oddball of the bunch, a 9-year-old who still wets her bed at night, mocked by her sisters and hardly any more loved at school. With a new baby on the way (the previous one barely out of diapers), Cáit’s parents decide to send her away for the summer to some cousins three hours away. It’s done merely for convenience (and to save money), but the experience will prove life-changing for the neglected daughter.

l-r: Catherine Clinch and Carrie Crowley in THE QUIET GIRL ©Inscéal

The older, childless couple that takes her in consists of Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley, Extra Ordinary) and Seán (Andrew Bennett, Black ‘47). Very much unlike Cáit’s hard-drinking, gruff father (Michael Patric, A Dog’s Purpose)—who grumpily chauffeurs the girl—Eibhlín is the picture of kindness. Seán is more reticent, though he will eventually warm up. They have a tragic, not-all-that-hard-to-guess secret that they keep from Cáit, but which will eventually come out in its own pitiable way, serving to strengthen the bond between all three. Slowly, in fits and starts, they begin to form a companionable family, in sharp contrast to Cáit’s own.

l-r: Andrew Bennett and Catherine Clinch in THE QUIET GIRL ©Inscéal

Writer/director Bairéad, in his feature debut, focuses not on any big events but rather on the daily tasks that, when performed without rancor—and sometimes even with affection—can build a meaningful life. When Seán asks Cáit to run down the lane to the mailbox, telling her that she has long legs and so must be fast, we see the modest delight on her face as she performs the deed, enjoying the speed and the responsibility. Everything that happens over the summer, big and small, leads to a burgeoning sense of self, Cáit gradually realizing that she is a person, however young, of some value in the world. Even though this idyll will come to an end, the lesson learned will surely remain fixed in her soul.

l-r: Catherine Clinch in THE QUIET GIRL ©Inscéal

Cinematographer Kate McCullough (Arracht) complements Bairéad’s work with images that keep our eye squarely on the emotional content while at the same time showcasing the natural beauty of the Irish countryside. The score, by Stephen Rennicks (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande) tenderly serves as perfect accompaniment to the sentimental restraint on display (until the final punch in the gut). Beyond these marvelous artistic elements, it’s the central performances that ground the tale in all its heartbreaking glory, with Clinch, Crowley, and Bennett forming a trio of genuine wonder. May every movie make us feel this much, and invite us to come back for more.


Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator, as well as Film Festival Today's Editor. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, Chris is, in addition, lead film critic at Hammer to Nail and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice.

2 thoughts on “Film Review: “The Quiet Girl” Is a Profound Emotional Experience

  1. Of the 951 films I saw in 2021, this was absolutely one of my top 5.

    After re-watching it today, and while looking for others who responded to it in a similar way, I discovered your heartfelt review. It pretty much sums up my feelings as well. Well-crafted. Kudos.

    1. Wow! 951 films! You have me beat, that’s for sure! I so wish I had seen this in 2022, rather than just last week, so I could have put it among my top films of the year. It is a beautiful gem. Thanks for reading. Glad we share our love of the movie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *