A thoroughly mind-provoking film about 3 young women who, under tragic circumstances, see themselves cast away to a Magdalene Asylum for young women in 1964. One of many like institutions, the asylums are run like prisons and young girls are forced to do workhouse laundry and hard labor. The asylum, one of many that existed in theocratic Catholic Ireland, is for supposedly 'fallen' women. Here, young girls are imprisoned indefinitely and endure agonizing punishments and a long, harsh working system which leaves them physically drained and mentally damaged. As the girls bond together, it soon becomes clear that the only way out of the Magdalene convent is to escape, but with twisted Sister Bridget running the wing, any chances seem limited... Written by
The film shows the asylum experimenting with washing machines. The widespread adaptation of the household appliance would become a significant factor to the asylums' economic viability being fatally undermined and led to their ultimate closure. See more »
When Margaret's brother shows up to take his sister home, he not only knows his way around the facility, but knows exactly which room everyone is in, despite having never set foot in the place. See more »
Well, what is it you're wanting to show me? Come on, Kevin, what's the secret?
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Special thanks to ... all at the Glasgow Film Office. See more »
One of the better films of the year; Bergman goes to Ireland, you could say...
The Magdalene Sisters is one of the better movies of the year. It holds within it such emotional girth, such a sympathy with these girls and what they go through in such a society that holds the Catholic belief system as the absolute truth, that by the time you leave the theater, like it or dis-like it, you'll feel drained. Along with a heart-wrenching relentlessness by writer/director Peter Mullan in revealing the details of the nun's cruelty and coldness, there are a number of very good performances here. Geraldine McEwan's Sister Bridget, head Sister of the Magdalene reformatory, is on par with Nurse Ratched for being one of the most frightening of dominating female figures; Eileen Walsh's Crispina/Harriet is possibly the most touching of the lot of imprisoned women and could garner an Oscar nomination; Nora-Jane No one's Bernadette is a true balancing act between rebellious spirit and trapped creature; and the other players, including Anne-Marrie Duff and Dorothy Duffy add splendid supporting work.
As fellow film connoisseurs know, Ingmar Bergman was renown for most of his films dealing with faith, the loss of it, and/or the absence of God and the pain that seeps through in living in such a world that doesn't question it. While these questions weren't as forward and evident in this film as they were in Bergman's masterpieces, often Mullan subtly brings these questions to light as the film progresses: if God is pounded over and over and over into these girl's heads, that they are here because they need to repent for their "mortal sins" (such as being raped, flirting, having children out of wedlock), and they are subjected to physical, sexual, and mental abuse by those who should be compassionate, life-long devotees to the faith, where is God? This question actually comes to a big head in a scene that at first shows itself to be rather amusing when a priest gets a poison Ivy rash, and then Crispina, who got it from him in the worst way, shouts out over and over 'YOU ARE NOT A MAN OF GOD!', and thus is silenced away to a mental asylum. Indeed, this is the part of the film where the question gets the most light, and it's the most harrowing scene in the movie among others and is one of the most powerful in movies this year.
The only liability is the climatic ending to which is something against a Bergman=esque logic, and while I won't reveal it here, it tends to go to an (appropriate) timing that's akin to Cuckoo's Nest. Personally, I felt the film should have ended with the Bergman logic instead of the Kesey spirit, but that's neither here nor there, since the bulk of the film in and of itself is contains some passionate drama, and to those who see it will not only get an eye-opening view to the old-time (if old-time is up until seven years ago) Catholic ways, but also to the great dangers of control over human life.
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