quiet girl  | 

Young Irish star Catherine Clinch (12) talking the world by storm in new Irish language film

'If you're looking for the next Saoirse Ronan, you might well have found her here...'

Young Catherine plays Cáit in the film

Esther McCarthy

MEET THE young Irish star of a new movie that's wowing audiences and critics worldwide.

Twelve-year-old Catherine Clinch is attracting wide praise for her role in forthcoming movie An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) - her remarkable screen debut.

Now there are hopes that the emotional drama set around one Irish summer could follow Irish-language movies like Arracht and Black '47 in gaining international momentum.

At the heart of it all is the young Dubliner's performance, which prompted Hollywood movie bible Variety to write: "If you're looking for the next Saoirse Ronan, you might well have found her here".

Saoirse Ronan

Top movie site Little White Lies called filmmaker Colm Bairéad's movie "one of the best films screening" at Berlin. It also received a standing ovation when it screened at the Dublin International Film Festival earlier this year.

It opens in Irish cinemas at tomorrow with a flurry of five-star reviews.

Film critics have singled out Catherine's poised, understated and mature performance as the lead character, Cáit. Remarkably, it's the youngster's first time acting on camera, having taken drama classes as a hobby.

Catherine in a scene from The Quiet Girl

Catherine decided to audition for the part of Cáit in the film after learning of the movie at her school, Scoil Bhríde in Ranelagh. Film producers were looking for a young girl who could speak Irish for the role.

"I go to an Irish-language school and they gave us notes that said if you wanted to audition you could," said Catherine. "I went home and we decided we'd do the audition."

Her parents told her she'd got the role just before a family trip to Cork. "It was a huge shock and we were calling all my relatives and telling them. I was very excited. It was my first time acting on camera and my first audition. I started doing drama classes when I was quite little and I always liked it.

"It feels like a break from the world and you're just in this different world. I've always admired actors and watching movies since I was little. I always thought it looked really fun. I had a lot of interest in movies and photography and that sort of stuff.

"It's crazy how even people in different countries and outside Ireland, who don't know Irish are enjoying the movie. It's just really great."

Set over one long summer in 1980s Ireland, The Quiet Girl stars Catherine as Cáit, a young girl who lives in an overcrowded and dysfunctional home. Sent to live with a distant aunt and her husband on a rural farm, she blossoms over the course of a summer that changes all their lives.

The Quiet Girl is set in Ireland in the 1980s and tells the story of young Cáit

Both of her parents have experience of working in the arts - mum Méav Ní Mhaolchatha is an internationally successful singer and recording artist who performed with Riverdance. She was also a founding member of female supergroup Celtic Woman, who became hugely successful in the US and topped the Billboard World Music charts. Dad Tom Clinch worked as an actor early in his career after studying drama at Trinity.

"She's a very observant girl, and she's very good at imitating other people as well," said Tom. "We didn't obviously have any idea this was going to be such a big deal even when she made it, even when she auditioned and got the part. We thought it'd be a nice little distraction, but just the awards and the critical acclaim have been fantastic, and we are immensely proud of her. But we always knew she was very talented."

Catherine with her family

"I'm still singing and doing some writing and arranging as well," added Méav. "But I didn't do much straight acting. I enjoyed doing musicals and things in college. But again, it was a sideline, I did a bit of TV presenting, doing voiceovers for programmes and that kind of thing, but nothing on the scale of Catherine," added the proud mum.

"She likes to get in under the skin of the character. I think that's maybe the key for her, approaching it that way. We were lucky that she had a nice circle of people supporting her as she did it."

Catherine has very fond memories of making that film and is thrilled it's having an impact with audiences.

"The first time I saw it was back in early November. It was amazing, but it was also really weird seeing myself on screen 'cos I'm in pretty much all of the scenes.

"Sometimes I randomly bump into teachers and they just start talking about it and all my friends are really excited about it and they're all really supportive."

The Quiet Girl opens in cinemas on Thursday, May 12.

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