Penoos Aras
  • 4/5

A silent child is sent away to live with foster parents on a farm in this gem of a film from first-time feature director Colm Bairéad

This beautiful and compassionate film from first-time feature director Colm Bairéad, based on the novella Foster by Claire Keegan, is a child’s-eye look at our fallen world; already it feels to me like a classic. There’s a lovely scene in which the “quiet girl” of the title, 10-year-old Cáit (played by newcomer Catherine Clinch), is reading Heidi before bedtime, and this movie, for all its darkness and suppressed pain, has the solidity, clarity and storytelling gusto of that old-fashioned Alpine children’s tale – about the little girl sent away to live in a beautiful place with her grandfather.

The setting is the early 80s, in a part of County Waterford where Irish is mostly spoken (subtitled in English). Cáit is a withdrawn little kid, one of many siblings, always wandering off on her own over the farmland: the opening shot of her is a deception of sorts, hinting at a chilling destiny. Cáit is often wide-eyed, silent and watchful, to the irritation of her exhausted and now once-again heavily pregnant mother (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) and her thuggish, abusive and hungover dad (Michael Patric). Naturally without telling Cáit or being mindful of her feelings in any way, her parents decide they need a break from looking after her and pack the girl off for the summer to her mother’s cousin Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) and her taciturn farmer husband Seán (Andrew Bennett), whose vastly more prosperous and better-run smallholding infuriates Cáit’s sullen dad when he drives up in his car to drop her off. He can hardly summon the good manners to make conversation before getting back in his car to drive back home and in his boorish haste, he has a lapse of memory which is to have serious consequences for Cáit’s new life.