Catherine Clinch, left, and Carrie Crowley in “The Quiet Girl” 2022. IMDb photo

As the grandson of Irish immigrants to America, I have always been drawn, even for a few moments, to any tale of Irish gloom, which is almost always the basement where such films begin.

Most Irish films, like “Waking Ned Devine” are darlin’ comedies, and others like 2015’s “Brooklyn” starring Saoirse Ronan are laced with sadness, but give us a happy ending shot.

We’re treated this year with enough tears to fill a drawer full of Irish lace hankies.

Here in Colm Bairead’s soft breeze of a heart breaker, “The Quiet Girl,” taken from the story “Foster” by Claire Keegan, the tears are plentiful, with not a laugh in the box.

But I’m happy to say that we find ourselves rescued by the performances of a dozen almost unknown Irish folks, as most of the Irish are, all speaking in “The Irish,” which is what my Irish-born grandma, Muire Eibhlin (Mary Eileen) called Gaelic, a tongue twisting language.

The story is pure Irish from top to bottom, featuring the magic eyes of 9-year-old, first-time actor Cáit (Catherine Clinch).


The story is set in 1981, a tumultuous time in the cities of Ireland. But here, in the poor countrysides where survival was the motto of the day, only the birthing of cows and harvesting hay filled the days.

Cáit is truly the quiet child in a house full of noise, and simply walks silently through her days, barely saying a word.

Clearly she was chosen because we can’t look at anyone else when she’s in the frame. Stars often start their journey with that quality.

Her teachers struggle to teach her to read, and her drunken lout of father (Michael Patric) ignores her and her mother.

We arrive inside this poor house where her “mam” (a drained and wain Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) is expecting her sixth baby.

The plan is to ship Cáit off to the uncle and aunt, three hours away, for the summer.


“Another mouth less” is good news for Da.

Dressed in her only good smock, Cáit is deposited at their house, and her Da drives hurriedly away with Cáit’s suitcase.

We meet Aunt Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) a sweet cup of tea warm, and inviting, but with a touch of sadness around the lips from a tragedy we only learn about much later. This is in her words to Cáit, “If there’s secrets in a house, there’s shame in that house.”

We don’t learn the secret yet, but the closets in the room are filled with a young boy’s clothes and toys.

The wallpaper is covered with train engines going nowhere.

Uncle Sean (a soft Andrew Bennett) is withdrawn at first, but after a few days standing in the warm light of Cáit’s eyes, begins to melt.


Sean teaches Cáit how to milk the cows, shovel manure and, in a moment of softness, times her run down to the mailbox. It’s one of many soft moments that bring Cáit to a lighted space she’s never known.

Clues to what writer Keegan paints as a dark secret, emerge soon, but are softened in a tender, revealing unveiling beside a well.

In “Quiet Girl” all players magically become their characters, picking tones and gestures that fit them like favorite shirts. Of course they do. To be Irish is to be a player, audiences are used to such talent.

I give you Peter O’Toole, Liam Neeson, Maureen O’Hara, Saoirse Ronan, Michael Caine, and certainly, Carrie Crowley as Aunt Eibhlin here.

“Quiet Girl” is only 95-minutes long, but not one of those minutes is wasted in cinematographer Kate McCullough’s hands, especially when young Ms. Clinch is her subject.

Stephen Rennicks has been for 20 years an award-winning Irish composer, while he has been crafting inimitable soundtracks for the best of independent cinema and television.


His music is available on Spotify.

Colm Bairead’s “The Quiet Girl,” is unlikely to be gifted with an Oscar, but it received 11 nominations at the 18th Irish Film & Television Awards (IFTAs) in March 2022, and won in seven categories.

The film was the first Irish-language film to showcase at the Berlin Film Festival and win the Best Film award at IFTAs.

“The Quiet Girl” opens at Waterville’s Maine Film Center Friday, March 17. Isn’t that Saint Patrick’s Day? Slainte!


J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.