Projections - Movie Reviews

The Magdalene Sisters

The Magdalene Sisters

Peter Mullan's The Magdalene Sisters is an unsettling, important film.  Mullan's second film adds resonance from the title of his little-noticed first film, Orphans, in a 60's Irish setting that may bring solace and strength in contemporary America confronting clergy abuse in the Catholic Church.

The Magdalene Asylums in Dublin signified a time where the Sisters of Mercy reigned making sure "weak" daughters paid for their questionable lifestyles.

Mullan's compelling and hard-hitting feature moves into the abusive environment that young Catholic-bred women endured.  There is some similarity to Philip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence in an examination of an involuntary subservience as "laundresses" have a reconciliation that equals taxing work and unfair living conditions.

The director gets fine performances from unknowns like Anne-Marie Duff, whose Margaret is surprisingly confined after being raped.  The general perception is promiscuity and sex out of wedlock takes Crispina (Elleen Walsh) and Rose (Dorothy Duffy) into this undignified society, having been rejected by their families.  And the pretty Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone) is another of the "fallen women" because of her playfulness with boys.

Films like The Magdalene Sisters aren't just made to provoke and exacerbate the current wounds in the Catholic Church.  The suffering shouldn't happen under any circumstance and rich characters like the physically and emotionally bruising Sister Bridget, a fiery Geraldine McEwan, shouldn't be allowed to victimize and exploit a system where people's spiritual lives are on the line.

Some outside Ireland may question this inhumane treatment and the dubious handling of the financial side of the "good" shaping of lives from the Sisters of Mercy.  Mullan knows what it takes to bring out the best where condemnation has serious psychological effects.  This closed- knit historical drama explains that institutions like the Magdalene Asylums have been closed since 1996 and perhaps this horror and despair will gradually be channeled into an important commitment into the service of eradicating servitude.

The Magdalene Sisters

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