“The Quiet Girl” a Must-See: Thoughts and Spoilers

While I have nothing but praise for the award-worthy 2022 Irish film The Quiet Girl, set in the 1980’s, it feels unfair to reveal much about it to those who haven’t yet seen it—it’s just one of those kinds of movies. On the other hand, if, like me, you have already seen it and have wallowed in its meaningful poignancy, maybe you’d like to revisit what makes it so special and/or relatable.

IMDB: “In rural Ireland, a quiet, neglected girl is sent away from her dysfunctional family to live with relatives for the summer where she blossoms and learns what it is to be loved.”

Source Material

Based on the novella Foster by Claire Keegan.

The Main Character, Cáit (Catherine Clinch)

Nine years old. Jessica Kiang, Variety:

The easily overlooked kid in a household of scrappier siblings, she is first seen hiding in the fields while her frustrated mother, pregnant again, calls for her to come in. At school she’s miserable, rejected by her peers, and at home she’s mostly invisible, especially to her ne’er-do-well father (Michael Patric), who is too busy gambling to work much on the family farm, let alone to take much notice of this mousy little thing under his feet.

Michael Shelton, MS, LPC, Psychology Today, recommends The Quiet Girl for movie therapy and educational purposes. He highlights Cáit’s role as a “lost child” in a dysfunctional family. “Lost children are almost invisible in families, remain isolated, and rarely engage in any behavior that would attract attention, including complaining.”

The Main Plot

Jessica Kiang: “So when her mother’s wealthier cousin Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) and her farmer husband Seán (Andrew Bennett) offer to take the girl off her parents’ hands for a summer, Cáit’s dad drives her the three hours to Waterford and deposits her with them, with something close to relief.”

Alberto Cox Délano, Pajiba: Eibhlin “joyfully [takes] up on the motherly role. Unlike in the novella, the husband…is much more reluctant to embrace Cáit, but he is slowly melted into a doting, if not effusive, papa bear. Cáit, in turn, begins to blossom and enjoy herself, for the first time. However, a melancholy hovers over the Kinsellas’ home, something which becomes very evident from Cáit’s first night there.”

Secrets Versus Omissions

It becomes clear that Cáit has believed that all families have secrets. (By the way, she also wets the bed. Two possible signs of sexual abuse, though this is never spelled out as such.) Eibhlin wants her to know there are no secrets in their home—secrets mean shame. We learn, however, of a significant omission.

Loss and Grief

The omission? Their beloved young son recently died. Cáit’s been wearing his clothes.

Finding (And Losing Again) One’s Voice

As she absorbs their love, Cáit eventually opens up with this couple. It’s sad for all three that she has to return home after the birth of her newest sibling. Eibhlin and Seán bring her there; inside that home Cáit instantly, again, clams up completely.

…And More On That Ending

The highly distressing ambiguity: Will Cáit stay home or will she be able to keep her new parent substitutes? (The ending I choose for her is the love and safety she deserves.)

The Quiet Girl  Makes Grown Men (And Women) Cry

David Fear, Rolling Stone:…one of the single most moving, heartfelt, and heartbreaking movies from any country in the last decade. That only sounds like hyperbole until you see it.”

Christopher Llewellyn Reed, FilmFestivalToday: “…I have found myself bursting into gentle tears at the most unexpected moments, the memory of its painful beauty still fresh.”

Nick Schager, The Daily Beast: “…a finale of such desperate love, distress, fear and acceptance that it earns every one of the many tears it elicits.”

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