The Magdalene Sisters
Actor / director Peter Mullan ("My Name is Joe," "The Claim") has created an exceptional film that is as bleak as it is beautiful. With The Magdalene Sisters Mullan joins the ranks of great U.K. filmmakers such as Ken Loach and Michael Winterbottom with this compelling story of oppressed women overcoming adversity. It's curious that this film was released in the summertime. The serious tone and superior filmmaking should warrant a fall release for maximum Oscar voter attention.
"The Magdalene Sisters" refers to a group of an estimated 30,000 women who were subjected to a horrible life in workhouses run by the Catholic Church during the 1960's and 70's. In these workhouses, named for Mary Magdalene, "fallen women" were kept under lock and key working seven days a week for no pay to "wash away their sins." Some of the women had given birth to children out of wedlock, others were raped or simply insane.
The Magdalene Sisters follows the stories of three young women and their time served in a Magdalene laundry. Nearly every event shown in the film is based on a real-life experience of a Magdalene survivor. The girls endure both physical and psychological torture, but hope is never lost. In the end, each girl makes her own kind of escape.
Every aspect of this film is outstanding, but the most remarkable performance is given by Nora-Jane Noone as the unstoppable Bernadette. With an intensity not seen since Michelle Rodriguez debuted in Girlfight, the audience belongs to Noone from frame one.
The Magdalene Sisters is not an easy film to watch, but it tells an important story and says a lot about the inner strength of women. Those with strong feelings about the Catholic Church be advised, Mullan is unflinching. Politics aside, The Magdalene Sisters is one of the most well-crafted films of 2003 and not to be missed.
-Megan A. Denny