By Lynn Venhaus

Heart-wrenching yet hopeful, “The Quiet Girl” is the first-ever Irish film to make the shortlist for the Academy Awards’ Best International Feature.

Tightly constructed, with emotions that swell significantly in non-showy ways, writer-director Colm Bairead’s first feature film showcases understated performances in an unforgettable story of humanity.

Catherine Clinch is remarkable as shy nine-year-old Cait, already an outcast in her family and at school. She’s growing up poor in a dysfunctional, overcrowded family in County Meath. Her wretched father, too busy gambling and drinking, calls her “The Wanderer.” Her mother has more children than she can handle, and neglects this sensitive, inquisitive daughter.

Sent away to distant relatives in County Waterford for the summer of 1981, she learns about love and kindness. While living on a farm with her mother’s cousin, Eibhlin (Carrie Crowley) and her husband Sean (Andrew Bennett), she blossoms. The middle-aged couple live alone in a nice, neatly-kept home.

It’s not an easy situation, but Eibhlin is nurturing and Sean, gruff at first, lets his guard down. Cait will eventually learn about their lives and a secret from a chatty neighbor, Una, played by Joan Sheehy.

The film’s pace is measured and there is simplicity in its storytelling. What Bairead indicates with a glance or shows with a compassionate gesture tugs hard at your heart.

As the preoccupied parents, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh is an overwhelmed Mam while Michael Patric is a selfish Da. The other siblings are of minimal focus here.

Based on the novella, “Foster” by Claire Keegan, “The Quiet Girl” says so much with a minimum amount of words – making the performances stand out even more. The native tongue is Gaelic, so there are English subtitles.

Ireland’s lush landscape is an affecting setting for daily rural life, and cinematographer Kate McCullough adds a poignancy, John Murphy’s editing strengthens how well constructed it is, and production designer Emma Lowney recreates a magical summer of childhood.

With its ability to touch people, “The Quiet Girl” has become the highest grossing film ever in Ireland.

Recently, it won Best Foreign Language Film from AARP’s Movies for Grownups Awards.

It is indeed a winner, no matter if it loses to “All Quiet on the Western Front” on this year’s Oscar night.

This is the kind of story that will linger, for its literate and lyrical. Out of darkness comes light, and that’s a beautiful thing.

“The Quiet Girl” is a 2022 drama, in Gaelic with English subtitles. Written and directed by Colm Bairead, it stars Catherine Clinch, Carrie Crowley, Andrew Bennett, Joan Sheehy, Michael Patric and Kate Nic Chonaonaigh. It is Rated PG-13 for some strong language and smoking and runtime is 95 minutes. It opened in St. Louis at Plaza Frontenac on March 10 and will be at the Hi-Pointe Theatre on March17. You can also buy or rent on VUDU. Lynn’s Grade: A

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