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The Magdalene Sisters
Written/Directed: Peter Mullan
Staring: Nora-Jane Noone, Anne-Marie Duff, Dorothy Duffy, Eileen Walsh

"She's gonna end up in Africa working with the lepers! Anything that sticks out, falls off."

The Magdalene Sisters tells the almost true story of three Irish women interned in hellish asylums for the mere crime of being too sexual according to their good catholic upbringing (one girl is a flirt, one girl had a child out of wedlock, and one girl got raped at a wedding).Yes, it's one of those movies; a tug at the heart-strings and make you feel shitty for living a happy life movie. This might even top Schindler's List for how awful you feel about yourself after you're done watching it.

The Magdalene asylums (named after Mary Magdalene, "The whore who got with Jesus") were, the movie would have us know, tortuous towers filled with the most evil nuns on the earth, to which all the slutty girls in Ireland were shipped off and forced to do laundry until they were deemed worthy and pure enough to return to society. They are a black spot on Ireland's otherwise perfect history which has been a national secret for many years. While the movie is set somewhere in the 1960's the asylums remained open until 1996.

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American Splendor
Don't Tempt Me
Magdalene Sisters
Garage Days
Dirty Pretty Things
Buffalo Soldiers
The Sea Is Watching
Capturing the Friedmans
The Eye
28 Days Later
Cowboy Bebop

Washington Heights
Better Luck Tomorrow
View From the Top

Laurel Canyon

Ordinary Sinner
Dark Blue
The Quiet American


Hell House
Good Housekeeping
Roger Dodger
Spirited Away
Punch-Drunk Love
Bowling For Columbine
Scarlet Diva
Full Frontal
Sex and Lucia
The Powerpuff Girls Movie
Read My Lips (Sur Mes Levres)
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Human Nature
Shot in the Heart
Jim Brown: All American
Stolen Summer
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace

One of the problems with the movie is it paints the asylums in such a dark manner that one can't help but pull back a little and question the veracity of what really happened. The movie is partially true in that these asylums actually existed and the script is based on accounts from many eye-witnesses and girls who had been interned, yet the feel of it is something that borders on the fantastical - as though it's an allegorical commentary on human nature, rather than an actual piece of human history.

The Magdalene Sisters is reminiscent of last years Rabbit Proof Fence, only with that movie, the bad guys are presented as something more than simply evil. Even though you are never meant to side with the government or the people who are tracking the three girls, you do get a glimpse into what's making them tick, they are presented as actual people. In this movie, however, all of the bad guys are simply that: bad. Even the parents of these girls are stony faced and unemotional - expressing no love whatsoever for their children. I find this too hard to swallow. And lets not even get into how ridiculously evil the nuns were. Mother Superior's Irish brogue would occasionally dip into what can only be described as a German SS trooper's accent, let's just leave it at that.

As for our three main characters, the only 'good' characters in the story, the only thing I can really liken them to is the Powerpuff Girls without the super powers. Black haired Bernadette is a perfect Buttercup, feisty and rebellious and hot-headed. Innocent and sweet, Rose is a duplicate of Bubbles, if Bubbles was Irish and had just given up her bastard child. And Margaret, plain but strong and determined rounds out the trio. While the three girls are obviously distinct in there characters, and are driven by very different forces, in the beginning of the movie, the three women have about as much life as the three animated girls. Fortunately as the movie progresses they do fill out, and grow as characters. In the end you have a considerable emotional attachment to the girls and you are really rooting for them to escape, so the movie does its job. But ultimately it never does justice to the atrocities it's trying to illuminate.

The Ratings

Four dames Judi Dench

While the acting all around is decent, this acting rating is all for Eileen Walsh who plays Crispina, one of the other girls interned in the asylum. And she is fucking amazing. It's almost worth seeing the entire movie just for her "You're not a man of god" scene. Plus you get to see a naked fat man running through a field which is always hilarious.

One disheveled island (that's supposed to be Ireland)

Cinema-wise, Ireland has now dipped below Wales and officially become the least interesting country in the UK. It was up there for a while with movies like I Went Down, but now-a-days I'd rather sit around and watch potatoes ferment into vodka than see a movie set on this god forsaken isle.

Two Hipsters, wearing potato sacks and covered in lye

I could never get around how archetyped and clichéd the move felt. None of the characters felt very human, and so the stories never felt very real. Other critics and audiences have really, really liked it however… but none of them are as cool as me.


--B.C. Edwards
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[email protected] | August 2003 | Issue 41
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