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A Horrific and Gripping Recounting of True Evil
Ralph Michael Stein9 August 2003
"The Magdalene Sisters" is not, as some have claimed, a one-dimensional anti-Catholic film exploiting what are arguably especially gruesome atrocities. It is a fact-based drama about three teenage girls who found themselves in 1964 sentenced to work in a laundry run by an Irish religious order for an indefinite term and under conditions that made most audience members shudder.

In three brief vignettes before the main title, the girls are introduced. One is brutally raped by a cousin at a wedding while priests perform traditional Irish songs. Immediately telling a woman, instead of support she becomes the subject of a hasty conspiracy to spirit the rapist from the wedding and to place her in the Magdalene asylum.

A second girl gives birth to a baby - in the not long ago past, illegitimacy was the label. She is pressured by a priest to surrender the baby boy and then she, too, is hustled off to the asylum.

The third victim is in an orphanage where she gets under the director's skin for no other offense than she is pretty and boys from the neighborhood crowd a fence to call down to her. Transfer to the asylum follows.

The Magdalene laundries made money for the order running them and the asylum to which the three girls were committed is, in this film, a moral charnel house. Sister Bridget, the head nun, interviews the girls while fingering, with almost erotic delight, rolls of money. Her desk sports a photo of President Kennedy but a picture of Ilse Koch would have been a more suitable iconographic representation of her character. She is a sadist, first class.

What follows is almost unrelieved tedium for the girls interspersed with brutal physical chastisement and agonizing sexual humiliation inflicted by perverted nuns. Sexual orientation isn't my issue, it's the awful victimization of helpless young girls.

Through the fine acting of the cast the complexity of relationships and the nature of choices become engrossing. To accommodate or to resist. To comply or to engage in sabotage, even in small ways as a declaration of non-surrender. Sabotage is possible but can an inexperienced and angry teen foresee the consequences of a minor act of resistance? An anticipated humorous defiance may well have tragic results.

The film centers on the three girls as well as several other asylum inmates ranging from a young woman descending slowly into irreversible madness and an elderly crone who believes her lifetime of servitude guarantees entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven. This tortured soul is the nuns' "capo," the inmate without whose help the asylum's strictures can't be enforced. Comparison to the Gulag camps and the Nazi concentration camps is apropos.

"The Magdalene Sisters" doesn't portray all the girls as angels but it does show the nuns and the occasional male clergy as evil exploiters and sadistic hypocrites. Is that fair? The end credits report that some 30,000 women were involuntarily placed in Magdalene asylums until the last one closed in 1996. Were all inmates so tortured and beaten? I don't know but these three girls certainly have had THEIR experience recorded for a population that appears to have turned a blind eye to what should have been a national scandal decades earlier. Their life after the asylum is reported in the end credits. All paid a price for a stolen adolescence.

The asylum in this film is pure evil, religious doctrine run amuck in the quest for money through cheap labor and in the riotous unleashing of perversity. English judges for centuries have often used a word rarely found in American case law to describe persons and events: the word is wicked. This film projects an unending parade of wicked people performing wicked acts. It doesn't condemn Catholicism, it indicts the operation by the church in Ireland of one type of soul and body destroying evil. The Church can no more defend the Magdalene asylums than it can the predatory pedophiles in the priesthood. That's the simple reality.

Audience members loudly gasped and a number cried during the showing. This isn't a film for the fainthearted or those who want their illusions about a bucolic and verdant Ireland filled with dancing and music unaffected by the reality of a genuine tragedy now coming to light.

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Truly moving film
raja-swamy26 September 2005
I would give this film 20 out of 10! Excellent acting, nimble direction and very well crafted representations of real-historical events and persons. Eileen Walsh should get a special award for an incredible performance as Crispina - Eileen, you are fantastic! I look forward to more from you! What shook me was the realization that this movie captured the interplay of Dickensian exploitation interwoven with the fascistic barbarity of the church. The laundry was a slave-plantation par excellence as it ground its physically, sexually and emotionally exploited slaves within an atmosphere of sheer terror and self-hatred - we deserve what we get because we are guilty - shame on us - this is what the masters of every plantation on this planet sought to instill in slaves.

What I would have liked to see developed further was how this laundry-plantation fit within the wider Irish society - whose clothes were being washed, and what was their relationship to the people who were incarcerated here? Religion's role in the sheer brutalization of its adherents has been evidenced throughout history - no mass religion has brought anything other than terror, subjugation and self-hatred to women - this film proves it beyond doubt! As men, we are beneficiaries of such brutalities to women - and we are like Margaret's brother - who sheepishly mutters some nonsense about waiting to grow up while his sister lived in hell. What pained me most in this film was the terrible scene of uniformed men dragging Crispina out of the dormitory - to her destruction - and here the most painful part was noting that none of the women could shake off their terror to help their sister who cried for help. The scene captured in a brutal moment, the truth that tyranny can only thrive with our collective fear. Religion like other totalitarian ideologies rules by internalized terror.

Enough, go on and watch this movie, its worth every tear you shed, because in the end, you will find that being disturbed makes you recognize the suffering of every Crispina, Margaret, Rose, Bernadette among us.
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The other, other kind of terrorism.
Michael DeZubiria1 December 2004
I inadvertently found myself watching a whole string of movies the other day about people being tortured or torturing themselves, without even looking for movies like that. I saw The Magdalene Sisters, Osama, and that IMAX film Everest, all in the same day, and was surprised at their similarities, particularly between the first two. The Magdalene Sisters and Osama are strikingly similar in that they are both about religious terrorism, specifically centered around women. Osama was a look at how the Taliban keeps women under tight control, not allowing them even the tiniest freedom (indeed, women could be arrested and severely punished for such crimes as walking alone in public or speaking to a man, even for such dangerous statements as, 'My father is sick.'), while The Magdalene Sisters is about the Catholic Church in Ireland in disturbingly recent times, severely punishing women as a result of what appears to be the Church's frothing and highly irrational fear of sex.

The film focuses on the plights of three women in particular, who have all committed 'crimes' of varying nature but who are all punished by being sent to the Magdalene laundry for an indefinite period of time. One girl, Rose, commits the greatest crime having a child out of wedlock, which neither of her parents will even look at. Interestingly, she had the child because an abortion would have been a sin. Bernadette makes the mortal mistake of flirting with boys outside the orphanage she lived in, and Margaret is raped at a family gathering by a cousin, only to be shipped off herself when she reports it to family members.

At the Magdalene laundry, the girls are subjected to psychological abuse and endless physical toil, all under the old theory that it will cleanse their souls. Some of the women that the three girls in question encounter as they enter the laundry have been there for decades, and they eventually figure out that the only way that they are ever going to get out of there is to escape. Bernadette is especially aware of this, and makes increasing efforts to escape, for which she is brutally punished.

I am genuinely curious to know what path of logic leads people to believe that such practices in the name of religion can have any beneficial value. The Taliban has taken religious torture to its extreme, debasing themselves and their religion by performing unbelievably inhuman acts in the name of their God, and it appears that, while certainly not on the same level of cruelty, the Catholic Church has performed similar crimes against humanity. That the Catholic Church in Ireland promptly condemned the film is not surprising, but if such things are being committed under its name (and indeed continued being committed well into the late 1990s), I should think that the Church would at least allow the film to be shown so that people would be aware of such abuses, which tarnish the reputation of the Church. I believe that it would have been possible for the Church to defend its own validity while at the same time acknowledging abuses committed in its name, especially if the accusations of cruelty were untrue, although in this case they were not. Running, however, only makes you look guilty.

The Magdalene laundry is presided over by a nun who is simply evil. She is an elderly lady and generally soft-spoken, but this woman makes the wicked witch of the west look like a prancing schoolgirl. The viciousness of the rest of the Sisters of Mercy radiates off of this woman like some kind of sinister force, delicately but successfully walking the line between illustrating the harshness of a brutal religious regime and creating a movie monster. Her character is human, but she's not far from being a monster.

It's disheartening to see the things that people do in the name of religion, especially when the crimes are something as little as behaving like a normal person. There are natural and perfectly healthy behaviors that unfortunately are violations of arbitrary religious laws, which are subsequently punished with outlandish punishments like those seen in this movie. Religion is thrown into reverse, causing pain and suffering rather than offering an escape from it, shown in a modern setting that is so backwards that it could just as easily have taken place in the 1600s.
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The nuns in this film never sang 'How do solve a Problem Like Maria?'
zbenmt26 April 2004
Their idea of problem solving was more based on the Marque de Sade's idea of fun. If you are in the mood for sadism and horror...this is the film for you!!

I could not imagine that such a place as the laundry run by The Order of Magdelene Sisters could exist until I saw this film. The four girls that the story focused on Rose, Bernadette, Margaret and Crispina existed. I have been to Ireland and seen the beauty of that country. I once envied the life of those lucky enough to live there. I don't any longer.

The movie does not attack the Catholic faith so much as give a mindset of the 1960's in Ireland. My word here in the USA hippies were making love not war and these poor girls were only being human beings. I don't like to share the details of a film, but consider that one girl was an orphan and sent to the Magdelene's because she liked to flirt!! One was sent because she was raped!! My goodness, how barbaric can people be? film. And these people were nuns and priests for heaven's sake. Ah and let me not forget the parents who sent their daughters to that place. I will never complain about my parents again. Promise.

Please watch this film.
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Dirty washing in public
Arthur Crown4 March 2006
Peter Mullan's (2002) film is based primarily upon the TV documentary 'Sex in a Cold Climate' by Steve Humphries which was first aired on RTE (Ireland) and BBC (England) in 1998. The documentary records the recollections of four Irish women who spent their youth and a good proportion of their adult lives as involuntary guests of uncompromising Roman Catholic nuns.

The film is set in a particular example of this institution which, somewhat akin to the English workhouses of the late 19th and early 20th century, became established in Ireland after the Second World War. The Magdelene Laundries took their name from the biblical figure of Mary Magdalene, a 'fallen woman' whom Christ befriended.

We join the main heroines of the movie - Margarette (Anne-Marie Duff), Bernadette (Norah-Jane No one), Rose (Dorothy Duffy) and Crispina (Eileen Walsh) in cameo as their entrance scholarships for the Magdelene Laundry are being sat.

What's most uncomfortable about this part of the movie, is trying to work out what's going on. Trying to work out what it is that's being whispered and what will be the upshot of it, and why. At first, it seems like the soundtrack of the film and the contrast have failed. But before long, it becomes obvious that the soundtrack of the film and the contrast have succeeded. The dark and deafening silence surrounding the circumstances under which these young women are being consigned to the unwelcome stewardship of the Magdalene Sisters comes through loud and muted.

We follow their induction into the laundry by Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan), ably assisted by the Sisters Jude (Frances Healy), Clemantine (Eithne McGuinness) and Augusta (Phyllis MacMahon) who contrive with formally celibate gentlemen like Father Fitzroy (Daniel Costello) to represent a world in which God's greatest ideal is achieved through punishment and penitence.

As the film progresses, we begin to understand why it is no accident that these institutions should have been laundries. They could - after all - have been bakeries, dairies, canneries or places where mailbags are sewn.

With every garment that passes through the process, unmentionable filth is cleansed - if the Sisters are to be believed. And if the Sisters are to be believed, the sins of the teenagers and the route to Heaven is bound up in hot water, salt and flagellation.

And as we follow these unsaintly girls on their hapless journey, we finally learn that salvation is as straightforward as a letter we are not privileged to read and a brother who arrives with a suitcase - as if there is anything that anybody could possibly want to carry away from a place like this.

This film is a powerful elegy to the suffering of these unfortunate girls who, constrained to silence for so long, have finally found a voice.
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Great moving drama
Intertextual2 February 2005
This film will move you that is for sure. It is amazing to think such atrocities went on in the name of God. Well I guess it isn't really but this film lets you experience the single mindedness and hypocrisies of people who hold such fanatical beliefs. The film takes you on a journey through the eyes of helpless young women. These women are victims of the church and all its cruelty. We see how their spirits are affected by such unjust behavior. You will feel and cry along with them. You will hope along with them. It is amazing that anyone in these kind of circumstances could ever find any hope.

Peter Mullan had done a superb job at writing and directing. He even plays a small part in the film.

The script is very well structured. It builds it dramatic tension nicely. The performances all round are very strong.

I am sure you will enjoy this outstanding drama.
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Teenage girls are sent to the Magdalene Laundries and left in the hands of criminal minds
yjloiselle1 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Based on true accounts and set in Ireland in the 1960's, three teenage girls are sent, against their will, to a convent for various reasons (pregnancy, rape, "too pretty"). The Magdalene Asylums, in existence until 1996, were not unlike the "orphanages" run by the Catholic Church in Québec, during the Duplessis years. The inmates were treated as slaves, made to work in laundries and treated cruelly by those one could never imagine working in God's name.

These unlucky girls, believers in the all-powerful Catholic church, suffer cruelty at the hands of nuns and brothers, often made to feel ashamed and of their sexuality, generating mental illness and self-loathing. The struggle, throughout the plot, is to make it out alive, despite the Asylum's religious roots to save prostitutes as early as the mid 1800's.

This story, brilliantly acted, directed and written leaves virtually nothing to the imagination, which is intentional right from the beginning. The brutality is shown for what it is; in fact, one of the original "inmates" later described the movie as much worse in reality.

At a loss for words, I do not have the eloquence to do this movie justice. If you are not afraid to question the Catholic Church's actions, or have suffered at the hands of it -as my French-Canadian family did- I strongly recommend this artful and historically-revealing movie.
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The wardens were dressed as nuns, and the inmates were only children.
TxMike9 August 2004
'The Magdalene Sisters' would be a preposterous story, were it not factual. The actual names and circumstances appear to have been changed for the screenplay, but the original 50-minute documentary, filmed likely in the mid 1990s, tells us that everything, and more, happened to these children, virtually imprisoned for such things as having a child out of wedlock, or being sexually assaulted, or simply happening to look pretty. With no way out, they were forced to work long hours for no pay, operating the Magdalene Sisters' commercial laundry business, the last one until 1996. As one character, the old nun, explains, a strong Ireland requires that its men remain strong, so we have to remove temptation. The critic Ebert has a complete review. The only relevant "extra" on the DVD is the documentary, which features old photos and film, plus remarkable interviews with ladies who had been in a Magdalene Sisters asylum in the 1940s through the 1960s, including the three ladies around whom the movie's three main characters were built. A very gripping movie, well-acted.
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From my experience with nuns - a somewhat restrained film
aquamanda8 December 2010
The Magdelene Sisters is a good portrayal of the very real behaviour of nuns. I am English and emigrated to Canada with my family. I attended a catholic school which was run by these social misfits, and from my very first day, I was persecuted for the following crimes: I had a short hair cut, my hand writing was not neat, I did not know the words to the Canadian national anthem, I had an English accent, I was good at drawing, I failed to smile at the right time during assembly, I slipped on some ice in the school grounds and hurt myself. etc., etc., etc. I was hit countless times during my few months there - before I left the horrible place. I was constantly referred to as "the green horn Englishman",mocked and imitated because of my accent, and belittled because I didn't know the Canadian national anthem, which we were required to sing every morning before lessons began - (I'd only been in the country weeks - I soon learned it). I was kept behind after school regularly because my handwriting was "unacceptable", causing me to miss my bus home (I had a long way to travel). I was once hit across the back of my head with the words "you write like a boy, you talk like a boy - you even look like a boy". I was eight years old. My sister, who was ten, received remarkably similar treatment. I was terrified to tell my parents because I thought they would speak to the nuns and I would be worse off. Instead they thankfully took my sister and me out of school after she admitted what was going on. I have nothing but contempt for these people. I feel that anything which exposes them as they really are can only be of value to society, above all, for the protection of children.
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Very disturbing, very well made, very unfortunate story
Joe T4 October 2010
As already well noted, this is a very well crafted film that captures and portrays some of the lowest possibilities of human endeavour. The movie has it's flaws, but drawing empathy from the viewer is not one of them and this it does so well that I was emotionally exhausted by the end of it.

The religious dimension of the film is an interesting one. Clearly people wanting opportunity for anti-Catholic or anti-religious diatribe would find plenty of fuel here, but I think the more reasonable viewer (religious or not) would see the issues raised for what they are - a perversion and distortion of Christian faith perpetuated and maintained by flawed institutional systems. In this vein, it's not necessarily an anti-religious film and not even anti-establishment as such, but it does show a terrible side of those things and, moreover, illustrate how human beings can take any ideology, belief system etc. and turn it to meet their own personal sadistic and evil ends.

A sad and horrible film and one that reminds us all of what not do to, how not to treat people and how we should be ever vigilant as a society against evil and cruelty no matter the guise it takes.
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One of the better films of the year; Bergman goes to Ireland, you could say...
MisterWhiplash3 October 2004
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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Powerful historical drama
sketchfordawn1 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The Magdalene Sisters chronicles the experiences of three young girls in the infamous Magdalene Laundries. The Laundries were Catholic clergy-run organizations in operation from the 19th century up until the late 20th century in Ireland. Girls were sent to work in these institutions for suspicion of having sex outside of marriage, showing provocative character, or for simply being "too pretty". Mullen succeeds in exposing the outright abuse that went on in these institutions at a time when the Church was seen to be Ireland's highest moral authority.

The film focuses on the stories of three "fallen" girls who have all been landed in the Laundries for sins they didn't commit. What is most shocking about this film is the utter sadism and cruelty of the nuns who run the asylum. They force the girls to work beyond endurance in abysmal conditions, and routinely subject them to humiliation of an unthinkable nature. In one scene, the nuns line the naked girls up and judge who is the hairiest, who has the biggest breasts, etc. Mullen wanted the girls to appear natural, and insisted that the they not shave themselves or pluck their eyebrows prior to and during filming. No one is wearing make-up and all the girls wear the same unflattering garb. This adds to the realism of the film and brings his asylum closer to the real Laundries.

The clever polarization of character personalities made for some interesting clashes. There is Bernadette, who is fiery and headstrong; Margaret, a responsible girl with a strong sense of morality. Rose, whose good nature endeared me quickly to her. And Crispina, who is just plain bonkers. I found the development of Margaret's character to be particularly interesting: The more oppression she is subjected to, the more she comes to value her independence. This all culminates until her brother finally comes to collect her after four years. Upon realising her newfound freedom, she wont even have her brother tell her to hurry so they can get going: "Don't you dare tell me what to do! Don't you ever dare tell me what to do!"

Eileen Walsh was brilliant in this movie. Her portrayal of the simple but eccentric inmate Crispina certainly added a lot of colour to the film. Despite the obviously bleak theme, there are some humorous moments in the film and these usually involve Crispina. This was a very difficult role to take on, as Crispina's theatrical and over-dramatic personality required Walsh to portray such a wide array of emotions. So convincing was Walsh's performance that I found myself feeling real compassion for the girl. She's not all there and is virtually clueless about the world, which makes her fate all the more poignant. Walsh sacrificed vanity more than any of the other girls for this role, which is also to be admired. Her performance stood out for me as one of the highlights of the film.

This film should appeal to the secular-minded and those who are critical of religion in general. I don't know if Mullen himself holds any biases in this area, but he certainly succeeds in highlighting just how detrimental an effect fundamentalism can have on a society. It has torn the girls' families apart, stripped them of their independence and, for some of them, has resulted is the considerable deterioration of their mental health. The girls enter the asylum as strong, healthy individuals who, over time, come to forget how to interact properly with other people and find it difficult to distinguish what is real and what isn't. One of the prevailing themes in The Magdalene Sisters is the hypocrisy of devout Christians, who claim to model themselves off of Christ, yet are so un Christ-like in their treatment of the "fallen" in society. This is especially true of the nuns, who are supposed to serve as women of Christ, yet fail to follow in his example of forgiveness and love.

One aspect of this movie I found particularly interesting was its depiction how society viewed women in the era. The treatment of the Magdalene girls raises questions about the injustices and double-standards which existed in the early 20th century. Even though the girls of Magdalene are not at fault for being raped, getting pregnant or simply being attractive, it is the women who are punished and ostracised.

The crew did a great job of recreating the atmosphere of the old Irish Laundries. Most of the film is shot in dimly lit conditions, to emphasize the bleak and gloomy feel of the place. We get a brief glimpse of the beautiful Irish countryside when Margaret steps outside the grounds of Magdalene and becomes disorientated as she surveys the outside world. She is startled by the light and beauty of freedom, which is in stark contrast to her confinement in the Laundries. Sound is also manipulated to great effect. I really got the feel of an old, spacious dank church as every sound is clearly heard resonating off the stone walls. I think the echo was supposed to simulate that constant feeling of being alone which pervaded the asylum.

The shocking nature of this film may prompt the viewer who has had no prior knowledge of the Magdalene asylums to question how accurate a representation it is of the actual Laundries. Indeed, I myself found it hard to accept that the asylums could be this bad until I watched Steve Humphries' 1998 documentary "Sex in a Cold Climate", on which this film is based, and found the reality to be just as harrowing as the adaptation. In fact, one of the inmates told Mullen that the reality of the Laundry was much worse than what is depicted in the film.

I really can't recommend this film enough. It was moving, entertaining, and shocking enough to hold my attention until the final credits rolled. Expect to have a seething hatred of Irish nuns instilled in you. 10/10
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Utterly shameful
herbiefrogg12 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Warning. If you don't like a spade being called a spade and prefer instead to use the term "digging implement", then your sensibilities may be affronted by these comments. I could care less.

This is a very moving, insightful and powerful film that brings to light a most shameful episode in the history of the Republic of Ireland and the Catholic Church. This film will make you angry. It will make you sad. It will make you ashamed that in the so-called developed world, such institutionalised abuse can take place with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the State, the Church and the general population, although I suspect many Irish people will profess ignorance of these events in much the same way as many Germans did of the concentration camps.

If your knowledge of Ireland is confined to the glossy tourist brochure spiel of traditional pubs serving Guinness, folk music, rugged scenery and leprechauns, your illusions will be shattered, because this film strips away the veneer of "quaint" and exposes a much darker side that exists just below the surface. You will learn of a country where great swathes of the population are unquestioningly subservient to a Catholic Church that preaches piety but practises repression, cruelty, paedophilia, avarice and self-indulgence on an industrial scale. 30,000 Irish women were sent away to these institutions so the Church could make money from slave labour and many were kept imprisoned until they died. The last "Catholic Laundry" in the Republic of Ireland closed less than ten years ago, in 1996!

Bravo to the people who made this film and to everyone connected with it. It is only by bringing such attitudes and practices to the attention of a wider audience that we can hope they will never be repeated.
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The Nazi's Took Lessons From The Sisters Of Charity
httpmom15 April 2004
Enough has been said about the plot and characters by now that I am only going to add a personal note...which I strongly feel I must. I had to wait for this movie to be released on DVD before I got to see it....having waited patiently since I first read it won awards at the Venice Film Festival.

I am so grateful that Peter Mullen took this project on and that it met with such controversy because that was exactly what was needed for the film to get recognized and viewed by as many people as possible. The more people who see the film the better! The wonderful advantage of having waited for the DVD release is that it came with the brilliant documentary, ‘Sex In A Cold Climate` which inspired the movie.

As a X-Roman Catholic and a survivor of what I refer to as my oppressive Catholic education/indoctrination by the Sisters Of Charity (1957-1958) and the Ursuline Sisters (1959-1969), both old orders of the Catholic Church originating in Europe. I can state with battle-scarred alacrity that behavior as depicted in this movie is not only factual but not nearly cruel enough to tell the true story. From my experience...the Nazi's must have taken lessons in depravity and wickedness from the Sisters Of Charity! These were old world religious orders with dogmas and superstitions that have not changed since Christ's time. The practitioners of this primitive cult like barbarism were mostly ignorant of anything resembling reason or logic not to The comparisons to the Taliban is not all that far fetched. Of course there was one or two nuns who had an occasional bout of compassion, but they were not only a minority, they were also downcast within the system. I also realize that not all Catholic orders are of the same cloth as the strict Roman Catholic variety, but I was born into the Irish Catholic of the worst.

It took me years and a loving cheerful husband to undo the deep melancholia I felt from having grown up with this kind of repression. Now, as a middle aged adult my depression has amalgamated into a outspoken and healthy anger at a religious institution and church that has been allowed for millenniums to abuse it's power. The psychological methods employed by The Catholic establishment is so devoid of compassion and full of hate that had it still existed today in America it would be considered illegal. The only reason these zealot fanatics got away with their brutal treatment of innocent children for so long is because the people they tormented were brainwashed with eternity in hell for even thinking of questioning such God given authority. I spit on that authority!

This movie is not an exaggeration! And it's not restricted to the religious orders in Ireland. If anything it didn't go far enough in depicting the true story. Not enough nefariousness has been said of an institution that routinely turned it's eyes on child molestation and the persecution of women perpetrated by it's leaders. I am so glad that all these Catholic Church and School survivors are suing the church and therefore bringing the atrocities to light. And I applaud Peter Mullen for making such a forceful case against inhumanity in the name of organized religion of any flavor. Christian, Catholic, Islam, Jew...they're all the's all about control and power...and too often it's an aberration of it's original intent.
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Amazing film
arachneaj1 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
What upset me the most about this film was the note at the end that the last Magdalene laundry wasn't closed until 1996. The thought that young women in Ireland were used, essentially, as slave labor until the threshold of the new millennium was sickening.

The film was moving and inspired. I heard an interview with the director (which made me aware of the film) about the number of women who approached him during the filming process to tell him that they had been in Magdalene Asylums and I was so moved by his description of their gratitude for this film that I had to see it. It did not disappoint.

Especially moving is the documentary included in the special features of the original women that the movie is based on. To see them and hear their stories is incredibly difficult. I highly recommend this film as a learning experience and a window on the cost of letting religion rule society.
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A Disgusting Movie -- That's What Makes it Good
wondernat31 March 2006
Because I don't rate movies based on my personal convictions, I have to (begrudgingly) admit this is a very good movie.

This was the first and only time I had ever wanted to walk out of a movie because it's directed, acted, and written so painfully well that you can't help but feel yourself drawn into the lives of these women. This movie does absolute justice to the women who had to endure life at the mercy of the Magdalene sisters. It's not a campy story of the human spirit. It's an actual invitation to experience how wretched "fallen women's" lives once were in 1960s Ireland.

To clarify, I wanted to leave the theater because I was so convinced by the picture, I almost felt as though I was IN the convent.

I don't recommend this movie for those sensitive about women's issues (like me), but if you really want to see how "drama" can border on "horror," by all means, rent it.
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Action should be taken by viewers.
Gerrard-Sables21 September 2005
I got this film out of my local library. As I was working in Poland at the time of the original release this was the first I had even heard about it. Of course It had the misfortune to come out in the middle of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This film was based on fact. There are nuns and priests, bishops and cardinals who ought now to be serving prison sentences for what they did. It seems they have got away with this. I feel it is the responsibility of those who have seen and been affected by this film to see that justice is done, that the women who suffered from this slavery be compensated by the church that allowed nay facilitated their abuse, and that the Irish government apologise and those involved in this slavery serve prison sentences. Otherwise it's just a good film.
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powerful movie
sorcha1417 April 2004
I saw this movie two weeks ago. Like the Irish, here in Quebec, we were manipulated by catholic religion, before the revolution tranquille. This story of the laudries is similar here, with the story of les enfants de Duplessis. They putted young infants in mental institute and maltraited them.

The movie was pretty good. It show well the mentaly of the era and how hypocrite the society is. The dark, horrible atmosphear in this laundrie is well show and the actress were awesome. This is not an anti religious movie and they dont put too much to make us cry. Just show the brutal facts that happened. Its a good balanced critic of society.
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don't hate Catholics
daughteroftheforest23 October 2005
Though this film is horrific, and portrays Catholics to be cruel and sadistic, I would just like to say , please don't think all Catholics are like that. I am Catholic, and proud to be one, yet I still believe everything that happened in this film was wrong.

This film is of tremendous quality and I recommend it to everyone, even those who may be disgusted by what they see. It is the kind of film that goes straight to the heart, and yes it made me ashamed to be a Catholic for a period of time, I hope that anyone who sees this film will not despise the Catholic Church. Each character, each scene was done so realistically, it will make all who see it fill with empathy for those girls, I even think that the nuns who ran these asylums would be shocked at what they actually did, if they were living in these times. It reminds me, in a way of the film Schindlers List, the way the nuns inspected the girls bodies and laughed about them, both the Holocaust and these asylums were apparently doing what was right yet causing great pain and suffering at the same time. Watch this film, it is definitely worth it.
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Sheer perfection
I have read several books by women incarcerated in Ireland in the 20th century.

People who enjoy this film might be interested to know that the last laundry for 'fallen women' only closed in 1996.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I found it disturbing, intriguing, devastating, upsetting...

Not for the faint hearted or those who get upset easily. I love this film, its given me a visual insight into the books I love so much.

I highly recommend this film to everyone who is interested in this sort of thing.

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amazing tragic brilliant
johnpatrickmc18 September 2005
it's hard to believe that the country we're all so proud of today is the hell hole depicted in this movie. this is such a shocking film. maybe we are used to hearing about priests preying on young children but to see Nuns do it is very disturbing. isn't it crazy that having children was treated as a mortal sin and that this legacy was only finished 9 years ago.

i only saw this movie last night and i'm too disturbed to write much more. the performances are incredible. absolutely gripping. nerve wracking and heart rendering. Eileen Walsh is better than Nell. She should have got an Oscar. They were all brilliant.

i wonder how many other secrets lurk in the Irish closet of shame.
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The Greatest Evil Often Masquerades as the Greatest Good
protek2226 February 2007
This is an excellent historical drama about abuses in an Irish Catholic Convent of the Magdalene order. Whistleblowers have been coming out with tales of abuse in Catholic facilities, for well over a century! While largely ignored, such tales have unfortunately been confirmed, in the massive scandals of recent years. This film essentially chronicles the incredible abuse, and sadism, which took place, behind the pious facade of one such Catholic institution. The screenplay here is noteworthy, in how it masterfully brings this true-life historical drama to the screen, building the drama to an unforgettable climax! The film also forcefully illustrates some key truths:

1. Power corrupts, absolute power, corrupts absolutely!

2. The horrendous evil of blind faith, especially when exploited by powerful organizations.

3. How many of those who consider themselves "good" are willing, or unwilling, accomplices of this evil.

4. How easy it is, for the greatest evil, to masquerade as the greatest good.

At the end of the day however, the film reaffirms one of the most important eternal truths of all:

Blind faith enslaves, while critical thinking, sets us free!
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Brilliant, Sickening Film
ehoberg21 February 2007
This is a perfect movie. The writing, the setting, the detail, the acting, all true and perfect. The way the mother superior's face exhibited a rush of insanity after each horrible act was brilliant.

My grandmother at 9 (just wasn't liked), her sister at 12 (epileptic) and my father (walked in on my grandmother having an affair with a priest) all spent time in such institutions. My grandmother spent 8 years in a convent in the south of France, her sister was institutionalized until she died at age 63 and my father went to a military school in Florida run by benedictine monks. Whatever these institutions did to these people ruined their lives and nearly all of those whose lives of those whom they raised.
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Danii Disaster14 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not going to act like a smarta** (like many of the other reviewers) attempting to rationalize the views and beliefs of the 19th century Irish and the influence of Catolicism on the society back then. Instead, I'm going to share my impressions of it, speaking as a casual observer: The first thing that comes to mind is... "What the f***!?" I mean, girls, can you imagine being sent to a place like The Magdalene Sisters for, erm, being pretty, flirting with guys, or being a single mother? No, really - WTF? It seems utterly ridiculous and inconceivable. What about your family disowning you and selling you into slavery if some bastard molested you? I guess if such twisted pseudo-religious extremism was in place today, 95% of today's' women would have to be confined to an asylum.

I was quite bothered by the fact that Margaret's family chose to send her off to that awful place (after she was brutally raped by her cousin), instead of calling the rapist to justice and helping their daughter cope with the crime she fell victim to. I don't know what kind of religion condones rape, and, to add insult to injury, considers the *victim* a sinner. I can't imagine how brainwashed and f***ed up people back then must've been. A teenage girl is taken advantage of, yet SHE is the one being punished and getting disowned by her family, while the perpetrator (the rapist) just gets away with it and goes on as if nothing had happened. Where is the logic behind this, and what holy book preaches such "morals"? And Bernadette? She is confined to the asylum merely for the fact that she is moderately attractive and extroverted. This is just totally out of order, seriously.

Speaking of Bernadette... she was, obviously, the highlight of the movie. I only wish she would've hit one of the despicable nuns as she and Rose (Patricia) were escaping.

I also liked Anne-Marie Duff - the actress has a certain je ne sais quoi.

The most tragic of all was certainly Crispina. It was clear from the start that she's not like the other girls - she's already broken beyond repair and her mental health issues are irreversible. It's no surprise that she perished at 24... and of anorexia! How sad indeed...

The Magdalene Sisters asylum seemed like a devilish concentration camp rather than a religious organization. I don't think there was ever anything remotely "Godly" about an institution like that. Moreover, real-life survivors have reported that the conditions were actually much worse compared to those portrayed in the movie. Oh, the horror! It's an excellent movie, though. They couldn't have picked a better cast. I can't imagine anyone else playing Bernadette... well, anyone except for Sherilyn Fenn, who has exactly the same dark, sultry look. The other cast members were also chosen perfectly, and though none of them are mega-famous (in fact - most are relatively unknown), the performance surpasses that of well-known Hollywood stars by *miles*.

Anyway, I was impressed with the movie, and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone interested in the subject matter.
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The evil hypocrisy of the Catholic Church
freemantle_uk21 February 2014
The Magdalene Asylums and the treatment an estimated 30,000 'fallen' women is one of the great shames on the Irish nation and the Catholic Church, which the Irish government only apologised for in 2013. The British-Irish co-production of The Magdalene Sisters set out to tell the true story of a group of young women who suffered at the hands of the Church and their families.

Starting in 1964, The Magdalene Sisters focuses on three women, Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff) who is raped by her cousin during a wedding, Rose (Dorothy Duffy) who had a child out of wedlock and was forced to give him up for adoption and Bernadette (Nora Jane No one), a teenage orphan who has the audacity to flirt with boys and is sent to the asylum, even though she is a virgin. At the asylum, each the woman all have to atone for their 'sins', through hard labour in the laundries, participating in prayer and can only be freed on the grace of the Mother Superior Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan).

The Magdalene Sisters has a rape scene within the first five minutes sets the tone that this is going to be a bleak, hard-hitting drama about a truly appalling institution. Writer-director Peter Mullan felt this was a story that he needed to tell. Mullan does showcase the physical and mental abuse that these women went through, who were humiliated, dehumanised and used as slave labour. The nuns of this institution are made out to be sadists who use Catholic beliefs as a justification and a method of control on the women, while Mullan shows the hypocrisy of the church in its various forms.

The Magdalene Sisters is mostly set in a small, claustrophobic environment and Mullan uses this microcosm to explore some wider psychological and sociological. The character of Katy (Britta Smith), a woman who had been in the asylum for 40 years, is so institutionalised, that she acts as an extra enforcer for the nuns, under the hope she can complete a pendant. All of the other women are completely rejected by their families and have to join the order because they have nowhere else to turn.

When Mullan does take us outside of the asylum he portrays the conservative nature of Irish society at the time. The public look down the women when they are allowed out, seen as the lowest of the low, the state offering some complicity, as police occasionally help the nuns. On the other side of the coin, young men see the women of the asylum as easy because of their reputation for being 'whores' and 'sluts'.

Each of the actors give their all for the film and they had given the heavy material. The film is blessed with a talented cast and for many of the actresses, The Magdalene Sisters is their biggest credit. The tragedy is played to the fullest, as these women suffer inside and outside the asylum, yet Rose and Margaret keep their kind aspects of their characters and Bernadette reminds a fiery woman who does not crack to the punishment she has received. In comparison the naive and kind-hearted Crispina (Eileen Walsh), a young woman with properly learning disabilities, who is abused in various forms and is the character who suffers the most.

Mullan made an incredibly important film, looking at tragic historic story where many women suffered. This is a film that is furious towards the Catholic Church and Mullan does portray many hard scenes in physical and emotional abuse, filled with violence and nudity. It is a tough yet rewarding watch. But if you think the treatment the women suffered in this dreadful Mary-Jo McDonagh, a former Magdalene inmate said that the reality was even worst.

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