Still from A Quiet Girl Courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada.

A Quiet Girl Review: Adrian Wills Rediscovers His Identity

Filmmaker captures his two-year journey in Newfoundland, uncovering the stories of his biological mother

5 mins read

A Quiet Girl
(Canada, 86min.) 
Dir. Adrian Wills


“Are you still hurt within your own heart? Cause of the adoption? Or is that too big? You’d like to have been different?”  asks Major Bob Kean.  

“I’d like to have met her, you know?” replied Adrian Wills in A Quiet Girl. 

Born in Newfoundland but raised by his adoptive parents in Montreal, filmmaker Adrian Wills seeks to find his birth parents so that he can know more about his identity.  Wills starts off his journey by looking at his adoption documents, as well as speaking on the radio to put out a call in Newfoundland with hopes that his biological parents or other relatives would reach out and give him answers. Little did he know this call would start to unravel a whole new thread of questions. 

Ellen, Wills’ biological aunt, had thankfully heard him on the radio and reached out to him in an email. However, Wills got an answer he did not expect: his mother, Mary Margaret, had passed away at just 45 years old. With this new information, Wills adopts a mission to find out more about his birth mother through the stories shared by other people in her life. From travelling across Newfoundland, visiting Mary Margaret’s old home in Greenspond, his aunt Johannah in Arizona, and other distant people from Mary Margaret’s past, Wills picks up tidbits of important information about his birth mother and the life she had, revealing family secrets and truths that Mary had not had the greatest life. 

The film itself is captured with 16mm footage, mixed with archival family photos and beautiful images from digital video. Wills unfolds the story patiently to reflect the two years he spent searching for answers. There are many interviews that turn into conversations Wills has with other people who knew Mary Margaret, as well as people who were part of the foster and adoption processes that Wills went through when he was a baby. All of these interviews, mixed with audio recordings of Wills’ reflections during the process, are matched beautifully with the scenery of Newfoundland. From big forest trees, to small homes surrounded by the sea and his mother’s grave stone on top of a hill, the film really captures the essence of east coast Canada.  Not only does it give the viewer a sense of what living in Newfoundland would be like, but it’s also a reflection on how Wills’ life would have been like if he grew up there. 

The main theme of this film concerns the truth of identity, as it had not been clear on where Wills had come from, based on the information his adoptive mother was given by the agency. However, as the film continues, Wills finds parallels between his experience and Mary Margaret’s life, with the sadness, loneliness and heartbreak they both had faced. Wills often uses the motif of swimming in a pool when he talks about harder realities and depression. The image evokes the sense that he was drowning in the waters of Newfoundland. As Wills looks at the pictures of his birth mother, he mentions he can’t find the light or spirit in her eyes, as if there is something missing or a hollowness to her life. 

While A Quiet Girl can feel slow and a bit sad, it really is a beautiful work as Wills dedicates it to Mary Margaret. Wills finds some answers he needs and discovers a whole new family to talk to.  A sense of an open and welcoming community is there for Wills, and while Newfoundland might not be where he grew up, it will always be a part of him in his heart.  As Wills mentions in A Quiet Girl, “I think there’s something always really, really, really, necessary about finding out the truth, no matter what the truth is.” That is exactly what he achieved. 

A Quiet Girl is now streaming for free at

Alejandra De La Huerta is currently completing her studies at York University as a Media Arts student. She is with POV Magazine as a field placement student to learn more about documentaries, directors and the film industry. Alejandra has a strong passion for sharing stories on environmental issues and social justice and plans to make her own documentaries in the future. She enjoys photography and using 360 video to capture narratives through a new lens.

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