There’s an old phrase from the 12th century that states “Blood is thicker than water”, effectively stating that the relationship between a mother and child is stronger than those who they are not directly related to. Over time, this phrase has gone under scrutiny by a huge variety of critics it has held over the years. Colm Bairéad’s outright masterpiece, The Quiet Girl, is a film focused on that concept to its core.
The film follows the life of Cáit, played by Catherine Clinch, the forgotten and neglected sister of 4 who is adopted by her mother’s cousin (Carrie Cowley) and her husband (Andrew Bennet) for the summer of an unknown year of the 1980s. Slowly, over the course of the film, the bond between Cáit and her foster family grows in a strikingly moving and sentimental experience. Every character feels perfectly real and perfectly cast; It never truly feels like anyone’s actually acting, and it often leads you to forget it’s a film altogether. Everything is perfectly natural and it’s why the interpersonal dynamics and relationships are so fundamental to the film as a whole.
Throughout the film, we never stray away from Cáit’s perspective. Whilst the film isn’t shot in first person, it still always stays by her side, never straying very far from what she would feasibly see for herself. It feels less like being a member of the audience watching a film and more like being a passive spectator within the world itself. Even without actually holding any connection to any of the characters, it still feels deeply personal. It’s a film that welcomes you into its world in such a manner that it’s hard to not be incredibly immersed into its storyline within minutes.
And what a world it is! Throughout the film, strikingly beautiful visuals compliment the storyline in every single scene. Every shot is beautifully put together to truly utilise the sheer awe-striking views of the rural Irish landscape that the film is set in. Sun rays piercing through trees, long rows of bright green hedges, huge open plots of calm green grass flowing in the wind. It’s just amazing from top to bottom.
With all that said, it would be a mistake on my part to not even mention the pacing of the film itself. It is a very calm story, meaning that whilst the pacing feels perfectly intentional and meaningful, that doesn’t stop it from being a generally slow film. This isn’t a fault, in fact, I’m glad it chose to take this choice rather than bombarding us with constant conflicts, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Between the amazing visuals and the strikingly emotional story, The Quiet Girl is out-right amazing. It is a masterfully assembled argument against that phrase “Blood is thicker than water” crafted with so much love and care it’s almost palpable. The Quiet Girl is not a film that rushes through at break-neck speeds, nor does it constantly attempt to overstimulate you with massive high-budget special effects; instead, The Quiet Girl is a very calm and moving story and if you can enjoy a film of a pacing like this, you will find a lot to love in this film.
The Quiet Girl is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from Saturday 16th – Thursday 21st July.
Reviewed by Joe Hasell