By Anne Brodie
Young actor Catherine Clinch is Cáit, The Quiet Girl and she will break your heart. She is 9 years old and one of four girls born to a poor Irish family expecting a fifth child, victims of the unspoken Roman Catholic doctrinal ban on birth control. It’s rural Ireland, 1981 the man of the house is a drunk and a gambler, and the mother is powerless to shift him. The girls have not been prepared for the world and are hopelessly neglected. Cáit refuses to attend school and is sent away so her mother will have less worry as she prepares to give birth. Without a hug or kiss or a goodbye, Cáit is driven to relatives, farmers living in a spacious house with plenty of food and a bathtub where she has her own room. It’s awkward at first as she says little, but Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) recognises a wounded soul and offers unconditional love and attention, something altogether new. Eibhlín’s husband Seán (Andrew Bennett) is a tougher nut to crack but she jumps in to help muck out cowsheds and pulls her weight. She knows he likes her when he leaves her a secret cookie. Cáit becomes a new person under their roof but still wanders, wary of the deep well and other hazards at the farm as well as a recent tragedy. She has a glorious summer, but sadly for all three, she must go home to an uncertain future. Clinch’s superbly nuanced performance, at age 11 is phenomenal, her stillness reverberating with emotional power with occasional bursts of pure joy. It lingers. The Quiet Girl was Ireland’s entry to this year’s Oscars for Best International Feature Film. In Irish Gaelic /subtitled and English, directed by Colm Bairéad. TIFF Bell Lightbox
BritBox‘ steamy four-parter The Confessions of Frannie Langton, an LGBTQ+ drama mystery series set in 1825, really pushes the envelope in its depictions of society, the British slave trade, and its resounding impact then and now. It concerns Frannie (Karla-Simone Spence), a mulatto woman born to white slave master John Langton (Steven Mackintosh) and his Black mistress in Bermuda. He takes her to London and gives her to George Benham (Stephen Campbell Moore) where she works unpaid in his opulent Mayfair home. Frannie’s mere presence incurs the racist wrath of the servants’ overseer but Frannie adjusts to save her sanity and refuses to compromise. The lady of the house, Madame Marguerite (Sophie Cookson) is sympathetic; they develop a bond of trust and begin a dangerous sexual affair which, if discovered could ruin them. Her marriage and lifestyle are hanging on by a thread; she despises her husband and uses laudanum to get through. The series moves like greased lightning but I’ll just let drop that they are discovered. Back to the series’ opening sequence, as Frannie wakes up in bed with Marguerite one morning, police and staff pounding at the door, only to realise her mistress is lying lifeless, next to her, her white dress glowing red with blood. March 8
The world’s first drag-fu, action-horror-comedy, Lee Demarbre’ Enter The Drag Dragon is a hoot. A group of drag queens and all manner of genders live together in an old Ottawa cinema and watch genre films. Demarbre puts into a blender “martial arts, gore, and rude, run-amok mayhem”, as advertised, paints with candy colours, eye-popping costuming, homemade songs, and outre performances. The characters Jaws, Crunch, Fats Buck, Teapot, Rawhide and some I can’t mention are amateur detectives, wrong righters, and activists and will stop at nothing to solve mysteries and take odd jobs. The whiplash pace is fun, and a character wears T-shirts celebrating Asian film talent, including a case of good timing, Michelle Yeoh. It’s sly, subversive, shocking and fun, not a movie as much as a lark with plenty of tomfoolery. Showing in Toronto – on March 4 and 9 at the Fox Theatre. Wear your drag best. Then showing in Kitchener, Sudbury, North Bay and Hamilton.