Set in rural Ireland in 1981, a quiet, neglected girl is sent away from her dysfunctional family to live with her 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.
"You don't have to say anything. Many a person has missed the opportunity to say nothing at all and regretted it."
The Quiet Girl, directed by Colm Bairead, is a subtle, gentle film about a young girl, named Cait, who is struggling at home and at school. Her parents neglect her. Her siblings ignore her. Her classmates mock her. There's a coldness in the house, and in the rural area where she lives. She doesn't belong. And as her mother is pregnant with another child and is close to childbirth, Cait is sent away from her family to spend the summer with her Uncle and Aunt in the countryside.
There's a sense of relief being away from her environment.
The film, from there, is a slow buildup, as Cait and her relatives slowly get to know one another. The film focuses on the simple things in life: preparing dinner, fetching water from the well, taking a bath, running to the mailbox, doing her chores, going to bed. The contrast is great. Her old home is dark, dirty, filled with an uneasiness of drunkenness and neglect. Her new home is sunny, clean, filled with love, nurturing, caring.
But then summer ends.
Led by a powerful performance by Catherine Clinch, in her debut role, the film is impeccable, stripped back film making, in a quiet gut-wrenching story. It's powerful when it lands. And there's a gentle serenity to it all. All a child wants is to belong to a loving and caring family. To feel safe. To feel protected.
The quiet girl may not say much, but her last word spoken in the film is the most powerful one of all.