Believe the hype. A Cailín CiúinWriter-director Colm Bairéad’s masterful adaptation of Claire Keegan’s story Support financially, marking a triumphant breakthrough for Irish language films. We saw it coming.
Tom Sullivan got the ball rolling last year with the internationally acclaimed, award-winning Famine epic, arrangement. FoscadhSeán Breathnach’s latest rural drama, as Gaeilge, received some of the best reviews of the year. A Cailín Ciúin seals the deal.
As its proud producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoí acknowledged when she received the Best Film award at this year’s IFTAs – where she took home a further six trophies – this is a “watershed moment for Irish language cinema”. As a matter of fact.
Supported by TG4, Screen Ireland and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Cine4 initiative (a worthy support scheme which ensures the annual development and production of Irish language theatrical projects), this delicate, deeply moving screening also received a prestigious Jury Grand Prix award this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. Could Bairéad’s film become a supernova? Of course we hope so.
The story is set in rural Ireland in 1981. The excellent Catherine Clinch plays Cáit, a quiet, alert nine-year-old whose tired mother (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) is expecting another child. The house is already full of mean, unloved siblings. Mom is exhausted. Dad (Michael Patric) is a bit of a dork, a useless con and a monumental waste of space who drinks and gambles what he deserves.
Life is utterly cheerless and unbearably empty for Cáit, and when school vacation begins for the summer, the boy’s parents decide that her presence is no longer required, and the girl becomes Eibhlín, her mother’s cousin (an ever-better Carrie Crowley), sent.
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The thing is, Cáit has never met Eibhlín before. She and her husband Seán (Andrew Bennett) have no children and – judging by the look on Cáit’s face – our thoughtful protagonist worries that living in a different house under different guardians will only bring more misery and neglect in its wake. However, as summer casts its gentle, dreamy magic on her home, Cáit discovers a new life in this caring, tranquil retreat.
Kind, warm-hearted, Eibhlín forms an immediate bond with Cáit, assuaging her fears and anxieties with appropriate caring and conversation. Even Seán – an aloof farmer and a man of few words – comes out of his shell.
The couple is smitten with Cáit and Eibhlín reassures the girl that this is a safe place, that she is free to live her life as a child and that there are no secrets in her home. But Eibhlín and Seán are hiding a tragic secret of their own, and it won’t be long before Cáit uncovers it.
A lazy, lyrical piece, A Cailín Ciúin is a simple, straight forward story, but it tells it beautifully, takes its time and lets the cast inhabit their characters in a way we don’t often see in Irish cinema.
Too many domestic features give way to endless streams of stilted, staged dialogue and breathless exaggeration. Not this one, and Bairéad’s frugal, slow-burning display only talks when it needs to.
The result is soulful, life-affirming drama of rare quality and depth. It is a rich, heartbreaking depiction of loneliness, loss and longing, experienced through the eyes of a wise and longing child.
Newcomer Clinch – the beguiling, beating heart of this story – delivers a performance of such stunning power and conviction that you’d never know this is her first screen role. Cáit features in virtually every scene, and Bairéad’s film requires capable and confident direction to keep everyone, and indeed everything, in place. Clinch is that actor.
Bennett, on the other hand, excels as a man whose workday is greatly enhanced by the presence of a playful helper. He and Clinch make a wonderful pairing. Likewise, Crowley is exceptional, and together this magnificent trio brings to life a remarkable story of childhood, family and grief.
Beautifully photographed by Kate McCullough, with an exquisite score by Stephen Rennicks, A Cailín Ciúin hit me in a way I didn’t expect.
It took my breath away. It moved me to tears and stayed with me for days. It’s one of the most accomplished and fulfilling coming-of-age dramas I’ve seen – a flawless, fabulously put together offering that deserves all the best that comes its way.
An extraordinary Irish film.
IFI and selected cinemas; certificate 16
Gaspar Noé is never someone who makes things easy for us. Through films such as Irreversible (2002), love (2015) and Climax (2018) this modern-day enfant terrible of French cinema took us through ultra-violence, explicit sexual functions and trembling psychological dread. In whirlNoé takes us to another troubling area of human existence – old age.
Split screen follows the last days of writer Lui (real-life Italian film director Dario Argento) and psychiatrist Elle (Françoise Lebrun), a couple in the winter of their lives. In a homey but messy apartment that reflects the full life they’ve lived together, they negotiate Elle’s recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Lui, who is coping with a serious heart condition, and her recovering son (Alex Lutz) do what they can but have their own struggles. A real sense of inevitability develops given the stage in her life, along with questions about love, loyalty, and how “enslaved” we are to drugs.
whirl is a devastating sight, but by jettisoning the provocation and settling into the seemingly mundane, Noé has captured the tragic routine nature of the ‘departure lounge’. Hilary White
The drover’s wife
In selected cinemas; Certificate 15
Between the endemic atrocities committed against First Nation people and the scorched, treacherous landscape, colonial-era Australia is a dark historical period to capture on film. Written, directed by and starring Native American artist Leah Purcell, this debut feature film taps into that sense of dread by telling a feminist revenge western of sorts.
Purcell stars as Molly Johnson, who has been abandoned by her drover to care for her four children in the remote Australian Alps. Life is tough, but so is armed Molly, who fiercely defends her small possessions. When an Aboriginal refugee (Rob Collins) appears seeking shelter, she shows compassion and takes him on as a helping hand.
This will bring further complications to Molly’s already trying existence, most notably the attention of a new local lawman (Sam Reid) trying to make a name for himself.
Aside from engaging performances and stunning backdrops, Purcell’s film is filled with suspense, beauty, and pathos. In terms of sound, however, it often goes wrong. A big culprit here is Salliana Seven Campbell’s overflowing score, which can dilute any scene’s potency. Hilary White
In the cinema; Certificate 15A
File this under “better than expected”. In fact, one of the strangest things about this structurally disorganized faith-based drama is that even at its most chaotic Father Stu remains a surprisingly tolerable undertaking.
It’s the early 1990s and Mark Wahlberg is Stuart Long, a former boxer from Montana. Worrying mom Kathleen (the ever-reliable Jacki Weaver) wants him to quit. Alcoholic dad Bill (a solid Mel Gibson) ran off.
Apparently mom knows best and after Stuart hangs up his gloves he’s headed west to become a Hollywood superstar (don’t ask). It turns out life – and indeed God – had other ideas for the guy, and after meeting a Sunday school teacher named Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) and surviving a gnarly traffic accident, our quick-witted pugilist decides to become a priest.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and debut writer/director Rosalind Ross’ sketchy, unfocused drama — based on a fascinating true story — probably bites off more than it can chew. Still, there’s never a dull moment, and a must-see Marky Mark adds a nice comic touch to the proceedings. In a word? Great. Chris Wasser
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/movie-reviews/an-cailin-ciuin-the-best-irish-film-of-2022-has-arrived-41646699.html To Cailín Ciúin: The Best Irish Film of 2022 is here