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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 31.08%
Just Average: 1.35%
Pretty Crappy: 4.05%
Sucks: 2.7%

5 reviews, 44 user ratings

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Magdalene Sisters, The
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by Greg Muskewitz

"The empathy is only used as a starting point, and not a safety net."
4 stars

Not so much an attack on the Catholic Church as it is an intramural exposé, namely centering around three young women who are placed in the custody of the “church” following incidents well beyond their control.

The film opens with each girl’s moment of reckoning, or at least an example from it — a rape, a schoolgirl coquette in action, an unwed mother being forced to sign over her baby right after birth. (The first sequence is the most effective; music plays over the interlude as the young woman is forced into the act, and then alerts one of her friends, while the news continues to drop down along the grapevine.) No bond between the three protagonists is immediately established. One could argue, that at least across the board all three ways, there never is a blanket bond among them. Instead is the careful documentation and initiation of the trip into their new surroundings, having their first impressions thrust at them in the daily rituals of their new supervised life. (The plight is illuminated over the course of their stay from the well-detailed, to the cliché: a rebel trying to escape and being caught.) Clearly, the point being made is that they are not being cared after, their sins are not being questioned or forgiven, but they’re being imprisoned, against their will, and subjected to an additional hell after the original actions that had them placed there (at least with the rape and pregnancy, it was hell before). The rape victim befriends a semi-autistic girl; the coquette combats against her imprisonment; the mother does her best to find a comfort zone.

Other obstacles occur throughout the film and Peter Mullan’s direction is careful to authenticating each girl’s experience instead of homogenizing them into one dismal pityfest. He scrutinizes in caution as to what separates the three individuals, how they handle their similar situations, and how they act within them. Being as that this is fictionalized from true accounts (Mullan handled the script-writing as well), one can only assume that the examples and facts taken from real women have helped in re-enacting and re-visualizing their stories. Empathy has a definite role in the film, but it’s only used as a starting point; Mullan doesn’t focus on generating sympathy for his characters as he is more interested in examining and analyzing who they are. It slightly reminded me of the prison experiment in Das Experiment, where the volunteers were subjected to a seemingly controlled environment for a psychological test, but their limits were challenged when the project went awry. Here, of course, it is not an experiment, and all of the girls in the quasi-asylum were held against their will, stripped of their dignities and rights, and forced to conform to what the church deemed appropriate, while far more concerned by the revenue that their program brought in. The Magdalene Sisters is neither fun or pleasant to watch (though there is an uncomfortably humorous revenge scene involving poison ivy), but it’s powerful, and often unflinching filmmaking. The faded cinematography is a starching acknowledgement of the washed out and worn down deterioration of the church’s prisoners. (Symbolic, perhaps, of the traditional laundry duties.) Maybe one of the film’s peccadilloes is that it doesn’t ask enough of its viewer in terms of connecting with the girls; at times its opposite disposition is to sever any connection with them. In a sense, however, it helps to remove the viewer from any personal biases and to observe along with them rather than feel for them during. Commendable work is also noted from the four major anti-heroes (the fourth being the semi-autistic girl), going above and beyond the simple embodiment of their believed real-to-life counterparts. And among them, extra praise is warranted towards Anne-Marie Duff as the rape victim, who makes it very hard not to believe.

[Absolutely to be seen.]

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7415&reviewer=172
originally posted: 12/28/03 07:01:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2003 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/19/20 Bents Effective direction and powerful performances 4 stars
4/20/07 action movie fan lacks the punch that boys of st vincent had 2 stars
2/27/07 Beau great performances, but it was too cliched olden times!! not my fortae 2 stars
7/19/06 Sarah Unbelievable movie best I've seen in ages 5 stars
2/20/06 Jen Chilling, disturbing, infuriating. 5 stars
8/20/05 bigbill catholocism, irish-a horrible mixture of ignorance and cruelty 5 stars
6/09/05 Jeanne Horrifying. These women had NO RIGHTS in their own country. All the actors were BRILLIANT. 5 stars
6/06/05 Kyence Simply incredible film. The horror is mesmerizing, forcing one to see it to the bitter end. 5 stars
4/01/05 Elly This movie was BRILLIANT! Leaves you speechless. Takes your breath away. Absolutly amazing. 5 stars
10/15/04 Tam Deeply moving film with sublime performances. You won't stop thinking about it for ages. 5 stars
7/19/04 Taylor Fladgate "Midnight Express", Irish Catholic style. 5 stars
3/14/04 Sarkofuck Great movie 5 stars
3/03/04 Thom Saw months ago...still haunts me 5 stars
9/30/03 Jinnvisible A reminder that cruelty is still at large in small minds ,,, well acted harrowing drama 4 stars
9/15/03 john i liked it 5 stars
9/04/03 mary natale mothers and fathers beating and abandoning their precious daughters in the name of god. 5 stars
9/03/03 limerick Unbelievable acting. May the evil doers(nuns or priests) rot in hell 5 stars
9/02/03 Angie Heart The power of this (true life) heartbreaker was diminished by over-the-top direction. 3 stars
8/31/03 Talisha Hunt Enlightening, and moving film. I thought nors jane noone was captivating as a temptress. 5 stars
8/27/03 Zwee I like this film. 5 stars
8/26/03 Jesse I can't stop thinking about it 5 stars
8/25/03 N. Rosen Timely and extraordinarily thought provoking; fabulous performances 5 stars
8/20/03 S. Scallan A very good, necessary film on a subject long hidden and ignored. 5 stars
8/15/03 Sly Massa Great Film 5 stars
8/13/03 becky the best film i've ever seen in my entire life 5 stars
8/03/03 blinky most brilliant filmny n 5 stars
7/29/03 Edgar nora-jane noone, I loved you!!! 5 stars
7/25/03 raed it is very sexy 2 stars
7/18/03 gringoyo Brave screenplay, editing Nora-Jane Noone is going to go places 4 stars
7/08/03 n great 5 stars
7/01/03 ilicit easyly one of the best moives ive seen this year 5 stars
6/17/03 brad USA GO SEE THIS MOVIE IN AUG 2003 5 stars
6/11/03 Rocky I seen this movie and I hated it! It rips off "the hours"! Blam this piece of shit!! 1 stars
5/17/03 Judith Mac Mullan A tuching movie and proof that the clergy are as rotten & evil as the next person!!! 5 stars
4/30/03 karen boone thought provoking, incredibly hard to understand the extrent of reality 4 stars
4/27/03 Ingo Very gripping movie, but sometimes too foreseeable... 4 stars
4/25/03 ALEX These stories need to be told - so that it never happens again 5 stars
4/22/03 Trish Move over Colin Farrel - Chris Simpson as Brendan in the Magdalene Sisters ouses sex appeal 5 stars
4/21/03 kyree it's touching, and has a very strong story 5 stars
4/19/03 John Bale OUTSTANDING. Finely crafted and acted, with suspense pathos and human spirit. Don't Miss ! 5 stars
4/17/03 mr. Pink Will be seen as one of the best of 2003. Institutionalized religions: AAAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!! 5 stars
4/07/03 Zwee U better watch it!! 5 stars
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  01-Aug-2003 (R)
  DVD: 23-Mar-2004



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