Longing for home

Simon Smart delights in the beauty and tenderness of the 2022 film, A Quiet Girl.

Recently on a Sunday afternoon, on a whim, my wife and I went to see the film, The Quiet Girl. I had read the Claire Keegan short story, Foster, that the film faithfully and artfully renders, but somehow, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional toll this haunting film would take on me.  

Set in rural Ireland in the 1980s, The Quiet Girl tells the story of 10-year-old Cáit who is sent away to her mother’s relatives for the summer while her Mum prepares to give birth to yet another baby to add to her brood in their cramped and oppressively poor surrounds. 

Cáit’s destination is the dairy farm of Eibhlín and her husband Seán who have recently experienced a tragic loss. What kind of reception will she receive in the home of these strangers? 

Long, meditative silences, and sparse but perfectly placed language draws you into the world of this fragile little girl—the aching loneliness, the innocence and powerlessness of childhood set against adult cruelty and dysfunction, seen most vividly in Cáit’s cold and defeated father. 

Every child longs for a home that is a refuge of protection, tenderness and focused attention. And kindness. That Cáit will get a taste of that experience makes her looming departure at summer’s end all the more heart wrenching. The final scene will live long in my memory.     

The Biblical concept of the God who “defends the cause of the Fatherless” and offers “adoption as sons and daughters” to anyone who would seek it, provides an alluring image to set alongside a yearning we all feel. 

Some of us are fortunate enough to experience an echo of that gift—a true home in our own families. For many others, at least in this life, such a concept remains an elusive dream.