December 10, 2022 – I am a fan of Irish movies like “The Quiet Man” and “The Secret of Roan Innish,” but it is quite rare to run across one this good in the States that is filmed entirely in the Irish language of Gaelic. This movie, a real emerald of an Irish film, checks all those boxes. It is the official Irish international film entry into the 95th Academy Awards competition.
At first glance, this story about a quiet girl, Cáit (played by Catherine Clinch) seems to be doomed to the kind of tragic path one hears in so many Irish songs, but it turns out to be not that sad of a story. It is a story of loss, to be sure, but it is also a story about love.
The opening scene on a rural farm offers those kinds of portents as we hear someone yelling for missing nine-year-old Cáit, and then we see a body in a field of grass, but, she's just sleeping. Sad-eyed Cáit is very withdrawn. She seems to be a slow student at school, and is ridiculed by other students, but she sees and hears much in her silence. She often runs away and hides.
Her parents, played by Michael Patric and Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, have several other children, and another child on the way. Their finances are also tight, so her mother arranges for troublesome Cáit to stay for the summer with her distant cousin, Eibhlín Cinnsealach (played by Carrie Crowley) and her husband Seán (played by Andrew Bennett) who live hours away in Waterford County in southern Ireland (the movie was actually filmed in Dublin and County Meath).
Cáit's father, Dan, who seems to have some drinking and gambling problems, drives Cáit to the rural farm of Eibhlín and Seán. He warns Eibhlín and Seán that Cáit will be expensive to feed. Dan then leaves abruptly, forgetting to take Cáit's suitcase out of the car, leaving her with no spare clothes. Eibhlín dresses Cáit in some old clothes she has which are not girls clothes, but they are suited for farm work.
While Eibhlín is very attentive to Cáit's needs, Seán seems withdrawn from her. He says little at first, and becomes very angry with her when she wanders off from the barn where he milks the cows. It becomes quite clear later on why he gets so upset. Eibhlín tells Cáit “If there are secrets in a house, there is shame in that house. There are no secrets in this house,” but there are.
Seán gradually warms towards the child, perhaps in part because she is quite willing to do farm work. In fact she was off looking for a broom to help Seán sweep out the barn when he got upset looking for her. Seeing that she needs exercise, Seán makes a game out of having Cáit run as fast as she can down the lane to pick up the mail every day.
Despite acting grumpy about it, Seán gives her money for treats during a trip into town to buy some nice dresses for Cáit. When Eibhlín mildly protests how much money Seán gives her, he says “What good is it having her here if we can't spoil her?”
It soon becomes apparent that Seán and Cáit are very much alike. Neither of them says more than needs to be said. Seán says of Cáit, “She says what she needs to say. May there be many like her.”
When a nosy neighbor tells Cáit about Eibhlín and Seán's unspoken past, opening old wounds, Seán takes Cáit aside and tells her “You don't have to say anything. Always remember that. Many's a person who missed the opportunity to say nothing and lost much because of it.”
While Eibhlín and Seán's unspoken pain runs deep, the unspoken love runs just as deep between Cáit, Eibhlín and Seán by the end of the summer. It becomes very clear that Cáit has found a new home and doesn't want to leave. Eibhlín and Seán don't want to see her go, either.
This is a very quiet movie with emotions that run deep below the surface, but it all comes to a powerful emotional climax at the end of the film. Like Cáit and Seán, this movie doesn't use more words than it needs to, but it gets its message across loud and clear. The acting by the whole cast is excellent. Writer-director Colm Bairéad's story and direction are flawless. Cinematography by Kate McCullough captures the charm of the Irish countryside very well. This is one of the best films of 2022. It rates an A.
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