“The Quiet Girl” (“An Cailín Ciúin”)
Screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center Chicago European Union Film Festival (3.5/5); Metacritic (7/10), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10)
Truly affecting domestic dramas are among my favorite types of films, and writer-director Colm Bairéad’s debut narrative feature takes a noble stab at the genre, one that’s tender and moving but that doesn’t quite land itself in masterpiece territory. Set in rural Ireland in 1981, this film, whose dialogue is mostly in Irish Gaelic, tells the story of a misunderstood young girl, Cáit (Catherine Clinch), whose dysfunctional family can’t be bothered with her, so she’s sent to live with her mother’s relatives for the summer until Mam delivers yet another child who’s likely to be just as unwanted as she is. While separated from her parents and siblings, however, she discovers a whole new way of living – and loving – with people whom she’s never met. And her presence in their household does much to rejuvenate their lives as well, a relationship that benefits all concerned – that is, until it’s time for Cáit to return home. The emotions stirred here are indeed palpable, but the narrative is a tad thin, requiring the picture to be embellished with plenty of gorgeous nature shots, emotive closeups and a heart-tugging background score to shore up the lean aspects of this offering. There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of that; in fact, it provides viewers with more than most other comparable releases supply. However, as an offering that earned best foreign language/international film nominations at both the BAFTA Awards and the Oscars, I expected more, a film that would truly have me more engaged and potentially on the verge of tears at any time, goals that came up a little short. It certainly raises important issues related to child neglect and emotional abuse, and it shows that change is possible where such circumstances prevail, but it just didn’t grab me that way I would anticipate a picture like this should. Enjoy it, but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t live up to your expectations as well.