Interlocking interviews of 4 women interred in various Magdalene asylums and/or orphanages because of out-of-wedlock pregancies, being sexually assaulted, or just being "too pretty" (believe it or not).




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Complete credited cast:
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Martha Cooney ...
Christina Mulcahy ...
Phyllis Valentine ...
Brigid Young ...


Interlocking interviews of 4 women interred in various Magdalene asylums and/or orphanages because of out-of-wedlock pregancies, being sexually assaulted, or just being "too pretty" (believe it or not).

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Release Date:

March 1998 (UK)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film is available as a bonus on the DVD of The Magdalene Sisters (2002). See more »


Referenced in Philomena (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Suffer little children
8 March 2006 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Steve Humphries' (1998) documentary is a piece of original photojournalism and social history which documents the testimony of four women who recount their early lives and encounters with a chain of institutions in Ireland which were known by the name of the biblical figure Mary Magdalene.

Children and young women who found themselves arriving at these places became known to the outside world, and even the children from the orphanages which became an awful logical adjunct to them, as 'Magdalenes'.

Mary Magdalene is, like the Laundries in Ireland which bore her name until very recently, nothing if not the source of considerable and enduring controversy. She ranges from being a fallen woman, or harlot to being a saintly disciple of Christ who was present both at his crucifixion and resurrection.

Through the course of the documentary, we come to know Martha Cooney, Christina Mulcahy, Phyllis Valentine and Brigid Young as they tell their own story as best they can. In the testimony of these brave women, we begin to get a feel for the places in which they grew up and what went on there.

Phyllis and Brigid were orphans to begin with, but as their story unfolds the meaning of the word 'orphan' in this context becomes a little suspect. And as Brigid's story takes on it's own powerful momentum, we begin to realise that the orphanages attached to The Magdalene Laundries were an unnatural consequence of the way that the inmates of the Laundries were selected and their natural emotional bonds with their infant children broken.

Many of the worst abuses that these women recall and describe are dramatically reconstructed in Peter Mullan's (2002) feature film 'The Magdalene Sisters'.

As the documentary develops, and the testimony of the four women builds, an uncomfortable pattern begins to emerge. A terrible and unmistakable inversion of the vision of the Christ who said 'Suffer little children to come unto me' is perversely transformed into a dark vision of a Christ who might have said instead 'Make little children who come unto me suffer'. This seems quite clearly to have been the fate of these children who came into the care of the Church as involuntary inmates of the Magdalene Orphanages and Laundries.

Like the great documentaries of earlier times, Steve Humphries film begins a deep social catharsis that alone has the power to transform the lives of vulnerable children in the future. No parliamentary enactment can ever protect them as comprehensively as a well-informed public who clearly understand the nature of the mischief which is being made in their name and with their apparent consent.

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