Kimberley’s mechanics in Cailín Ciúin scenes

Someone you love would love some…analysis

An Cailín Ciúin is a film built around the little things. Exploring grief, shame and loneliness through the innocent, but observant eyes of a child, Colm Bairéad’s camera focuses in on details that would catch a little girl’s eye and linger in her memory. A glamourous earring. Impossibly clear water. A ginger and marshmellow biccie.

In one of the many scenes in the record-breaking Oscar nominees that has left Irish audiences bawling, a biscuit left out on the kitchen table is a small gesture that marks a big change in the relationship between two of An Cailín Ciúin‘s central characters. For a kid not used to getting a treat, it looms largely in frame, big as the moon. It’s a piece of parochial parenting the meaning of which is nevertheless recognisable the world over, saying something important without saying anything at all, and it’s embodied in a Kimberley’s biscuit. Jacob’s could hardly ask for better advertising.

The Kimberley biscuit, for the unititiated, consists of two small, brown round biscuits. These have a mild ginger flavoured and are, soft, relative to most biscuits, with a soft marshmallow filling in between them. A thin crust of sugar granules on the edge of the marshmallow filling. They have been made by Jacob’s in Irleand since1893, with the name supposedly inspired by the Rudyard Kipling’s 1900 novel, “Kim”, which is also about a child coming out of their shell under foster care. Sort of.

Whether you pull apart the ginger biscuit to reveal the soft centre, or squeeze the sugar sprinkled mallow until it oozes from the edges, one thing’s for certain – it’s simply scrumptious!

– Jacob’s

The Kimberley is probably associated in most Irish biscuit enthusiast’s minds with its fellow mallows, the Mikado and the Coconut Cream. For decades the trio have been advertised together in a series of memorable and only-occasionally-problematic ads, with the catchy slogan, “Kimberley, Mikado and Coconut Creams, someone you love would love some”.

Jacob’s has some ties to An Cailín Ciúin. Just as the film is mostly set in Co. Waterford, the biscuit makers’ origins are also in the Crystal County, brothers William Beale and Robert Jacob founding W. & R. Jacob on Bridge Street along the Suir in 1851.

There’s a personal connection to the film also. During a post-screening Q&A at the Irish Film Institute, director Colm Bairéad told the audience that Méav Ní Mhaolchatha, real-life mother of Catherine Clinch who plays Cáit, featured in one of Jacob’s famous ads when she was a girl herself. The singer and former Celtic Woman shared old photos of this with the film’s team, making for a real full-circle moment.

Méav Ní Mhaolchatha beside her advert for Mikado biscuits

At that same Q&A, Bairéad and producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoi joked with host Donald Clarke that they were surprised Jacob’s haven’t made more out of the film’s success for easy marketing. Being a Serious Journalist, I reached out to Valeo Foods, owners of the Jacob’s Brand along with Rowse Honey, Odlums, Kelkin, Bachelor’s and more of your Big Shop favourites. Esme Simington, who has the delightful job title of Snacking Marketing Manager with Valeo, responded:

First and foremost, we’re delighted to see Irish arts celebrated on the global stage, and deservedly so.  We’re also thrilled to see the timeless classic, the Jacob’s Kimberley Biscuit, feature in such a poignant moment in the film. We see Jacob’s as very much being part of the fabric of Irish culture so to see our biscuit feature on the big screen, as part of such a wonderful piece of work, is very heart-warming.

We would like to wish everyone involved in the success of this film the very best of luck on March 12th at the Oscars in the International Feature Film Category.

 Esme Simington, Snacking Marketing Manager, Valeo Foods, owners of the Jacobs brand

Esme is absolutely right about the sight of the Kimberley in An Cailín Ciúin being heartwarming. Since Cáit has moved in with na Cinnsealach clan, she and Sean have barely exchanged words. Though Eibhlín Cinnsealach treats her cousin’s daughter treats her with care and kindness above and beyond what Cáit has experienced before, her husband appears more reserved. Sean says good night to Cáit every evening with with his back to her, his eyes not moving off the television from his space at the sitting room couch. He puts off showing her round the farm and getting her help, leaving her mostly in Eibhlín’s hands.

An Cailín Ciúin is great at contrasting the situational differences between silences, and the one’s between Sean and Cáit while he finishes his cups of tea and heads back out to work are painfully awkward, feeling infinitely longer than they actually are. He’s not neglectful and mean like Cáit’s father, and seems happy enough to foster the girl over the summer. He’s just quiet himself and, we later learn, carrying his own pain, Sean and Eibhlín’s child son dying in a tragic accident some years before. That painful memory causes him to lose his temper with Cáit one morning when she wanders off on the farm. Too used to tempers, the girl runs off, the air between them tenser than ever. How can Sean make amends? Quietly of course, with a Kimberley of contrition.

The moment resonates, and not only for Irish viewers having snack nostalgia. Like a lot of the vignettes we see of life with Sean and Eibhlín, Cáit is experiencing full and proper care for the first time. Her mother is busy and beleagured, her father angry and absent. Life with the Kinsellas is so immediately nurturing and when Sean leaves out the biscuit to apologise to Cáit, from the snapshot of her life that we’ve seen so far it could very easily be the first time anybody has ever apologised to her for anything; it hardly needs the words to go along with it.

It’s a pivot point in their relationship, one of many subtle gear changes in the screenplay. The more we see of Sean the more his taciturn nature is recontextualised. He’s an emotionally intelligent man with a heavy heart, but Cáit penetrates that without even trying. Commenting on Cáit’s own quiet nature, he’s even-handed and understanding. “You don’t have to say anything, always remember that… Many a person has missed the opportunity to say nothing, and lost much because of it”. Having been surrounded with sneeting sisters and callous classmates, it’s encouragement Cáit needs to hear. And the bond that forms between the two is all about encouragement. He times her getting faster as she races to fetch the post, he gives her the first sneaky sup of a pint at a wake (a time-honoured Irish rite of passage), he takes her on as a spare hand around the farm. He spoils her, because sure what’s the point in having her if they can’t? Cáit remains a girl of few words, but we still see her flourish – inquisitive, invigorated, at ease.

We see the biscuit again, as memories flood through Cáit’s mind in the hard hitting emotional climax. Rushing to the Kinsellas as they drive away after leaving her back at her family home, a montage plays of the many small moments that have won the audiences heart throughout the film. The Kinsellas are fully realised characters with their own quirks and flaws, but as parental figures, they’re idealised and aspirational. We want to feel, and hopefully have, how Cáit feels under their care. They even have the good biscuits. And someone they love would love some.

An Cailín Ciúin is available to stream on demand at IFI@Home

Where to watch An Cailín Ciúin

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