AN CAILIN CIÚIN
FILM REVIEW: AN CAILIN CIÚIN
Release Date: 12h May 2022
Directed by: Colm Bairéad
Cast: Carrie Crowley, Andrew Bennett, Catherine Clinch, Michael Patric
Screenplay by: Colm Bairéad
Cinematography: Kate McCullough
With the dialogue mostly in Irish, writer/director Colm Bairéad’s first feature is based on Claire Keegan’s short story, “Foster”.
The silence of the titular Cáit (Catherine Clinch) doesn’t come from contentment. Hers is a quiet nervousness that’s driven by a dysfunctional home with neglectful parents. Cáit’s mother is addled by a seemingly endless supply of offspring, and pregnant again with yet another loud, brash child on the way. Cáit’s alcoholic father is a largely absent presence, but when he does appear he brings with him an air of menace. The young Cáit is dealing with a lot. During the school holidays she gets offloaded onto her aunt and uncle, Eibhlin (Carrie Crowley) and Seán (Andrew Bennett).
The set-up may sound very downbeat, but An Cailín Ciúin is not a sad film. Because this marks a period in Cáit’s life when things start going right. When she gets a little bit of relief from her miserable existence, and finally starts to get a little bit of badly needed nurturing. The contrast between her old home and her new, temporary one is stark. Cáit is used to grotty and dank overcrowding and a bare mattress, but Eibhlin’s home is bright, clean and warm, and at first Cáit doesn’t know how to process the change. Eibhlin is very loving and nurturing presence, and relishes the opportunity of having a vessel for her maternal instincts. Sean however is a much harder nut to crack. But crack he eventually does.
It’s these little connections that make An Cailín Ciúin such a pleasure. It has a pleasant, languid pace. Not slow, but pitched perfectly to allow the little connections and bonds that form to feel organic and genuine.
Cinematographer Kate McCulloch utilises the boxy academy ratio. Possibly because things were squarer in the 1980s, but also because we are seeing things from Cáit’s perspective. The smaller, confined frame allows for the attention to focus on the small, intimate details that might be lost in a wider aspect.
Carrie Crowley and Andrew Bennett are both excellent, but the 9 year-old Catherine Clinch is simply phenomenal. Cáit is a very meek, insular character, but there’s a real confidence behind Clinch that surpasses her young years. It’s an incredibly low-key and subtle performance, self-assured and confident without showing off.
An Cailín Ciúin deals with a specifically Irish brand of emotional repression. There are things that we can talk about with ease – like hay and jam – and things like grief and sadness that we don’t dare discuss in the open. This is a beautifully lyrical piece of work. It’s emotionally expressive, but in a calm and measured way, and very moving.