I watched this film while researching tie-in subjects for the September Greeting page. In a moment of synchronicity, I also found an answer of sorts to something that had puzzled me just recently (well, more or less.) I reviewed TEARS OF STONE; a Chieftains CD that featured a song by Joni Mitchell titled “The Magdalene Laundries.” I thought it was one the best crafted songs JM had composed, but was curious about the title & subject matter. While viewing THE MAGDALENE SISTERS I experienced one of those “Ah, so…that’s what she was talking about.”
Mitchell’s song is not in the movie.
Another one of those moments quickly followed when a new character was introduced in the film and I thought, “Hmm…she looks familiar.” Of course it was Anne-Marie Duff portraying one of The Magdalene victims. Totally different look, TOTALLY different character on screen, but that same inner-something that makes her an effective & captivating actress.
The film is about the real-life scandal of a Roman Catholic institution for wayward women that is something like a cross between THE EXORCIST and a concentration camp. This plays out in the 1960’s. Ireland was very conservative socially (still is in some respects) and women bore the brunt of its restrictions. Some of the other people who reviewed the movie felt that it was unjustly prejudiced against the Roman Catholic Church & presented demonized portraits of the nuns in charge of the girls/women.
I was in parochial school in the US during the same time period. The school was pretty liberal (all things considered), racially diverse, Judaism was presented in a favorable light, etc. The nuns were pretty “normal” and most of them were well liked by the students. Personally, I only had a problem with one Sister—and she was really warped & nasty. She certainly had her highly repressive pincers into me. However, it can't come close to what it must have been like to have been a Irish working class girl virtually held in bondage by bitch bureaucrats.
THE MAGDALENE SISTERS is a vivid journey into a dark well of cruelty & the grossest hypocrisy. The women trapped in this pit are forced to find the strength within themselves to literally break out. Some make it, some don’t.
It’s a brilliant film that is so real, most people won’t want to see again.
Hence the 4 stars rather than 5.
Maybe that’s just me not wishing to revisit a place of shame…