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The Magdalene Sisters /

Rated: R

Starring: Geraldine McEwan, Dorothy Duffy, Anne-Marie Duff, Eileen Walsh, Nora-Jane Noone
Directed by: Peter Mullan
Produced by: Frances Higson
Written by: Peter Mullan
Distributor: Miramax


WARNING: Minor spoilers below. While this was not my original intention, if you would like to get the full effect of The Magdalene Sisters (which you should), read this review after seeing it.





     From 1955 to 1995, the Catholic Church of Ireland ran “The Magdalene Asylums.” Sinful women were sent to these, by their family and friends, in hopes that they would be able to redeem themselves with god. They would have to work long hard days, and live in tight quarters, with many others, in the same situation as them. They could not keep in touch with their families or friends.


     These women were basically living the lives of slaves, and most of them were never freed, until these institutions were shut down. Many of them still had hope that someone on the outside would, one day, come and get them. Others thought that, eventually, they would be able to earn their way out. Those who were desperate enough would even sexually motivate the males, who had the power to sneak them out. The most daring used the simplest plan—run and try to break through the doors that led to the front grate.


     The Magdalene Sisters is a beautiful depiction of this brutal piece of history. It follows three teenage girls, who have been condemned to life in one of these despicable “asylums.”



     She’s been confined in one building for years and years.


     She’s wearing the exact same uniform as every other woman there.


     She’s been beaten and humiliated.


     She’s living the life of a servant, constantly working, with almost no breaks.


     She’s the victim of dictators; the head nuns control her life.


     She’s sleeping on a bed as hard as rock, and doesn’t have the bare necessities needed to maintain proper hygiene.


     Worst of all, she has no way of contacting anyone, who’s a part of the outside world.


     For what? To “erase” all of the sins she’s committed, in hopes of getting into heaven.


     When the chance to escape from the evil place emerges, she must decide if it’s worth taking. The back-door, which leads to the outside, is open and no one’s looking. It’ll be her little secret. After a week, no one there will even remember her. She steps through the exit, and glances at the long dirt road, in front of her. She can either go north or south, there are no other options.


     She signals the driver of the one car on the road to stop, and he does. She’s silent, not a word has been exchanged between the two. The man, waiting for her to speak, asks why she’s forced him to come to a halt. She does not respond. After pausing to think, he realizes who she is.


“You’re from in there, aren’t you?”


     Again, she doesn’t speak. The guy is now slightly annoyed, even though a part of him is intrigued.


“They’re taking in loonies now, too”


     He starts his car, and accelerates. She’s not crazy, is she? What has the place done to her?


     She’s alone again. She can leave now, can’t she? She gazes at the road and the fields of green grass on the opposite side of it, once more. Somewhat reluctantly, she turns around and pushes same door open that she left through. At first, she’s hesitant to go back to the prison that she’s being held in, but decides to do so. We, the audience, do not want her to return. Strangely, we don’t think she’s foolish for doing so, either.


     This scene in The Magdalene Sisters made me physically numb. It’s symbolic of her feelings about confinement, extremely emotional, and undoubtedly artful. This film is a timeless classic; it will go down in the record books as one of the greatest pictures ever made. Trillions of amazing tales have never been told on film, even though they are screaming to be heard. Let’s just be glad that director Peter Mullan had the ambition to bring this amazing true-story to life.



     I have not seen any of Mullan’s other works, but The Magdalene Sisters definitely makes me want to. When watching this film, I was strongly reminded of last year’s Rabbit Proof Fence. While the two do have a lot of similarities, story-wise, the director’s approaches are easily comparable, as well. Phillip Noyce, the man behind the camera that captured RPF shares much of the same passion for the subject of his film as Mullan exhibits in this one. Both also take noticeably big risks when directing, which most luckily pay-off. And even though Noyce is one of my favorite directors, I must admit that I prefer The Magdalene Sisters over all of his pictures that I’ve seen. This, alone, proves what a magical, shocking, disturbing, effective, and stunning flick this is.


     There are millions of astounding features, showcased in The Magdalene Sisters, but the acting is what really holds it together. My favorite performance is Nora-Jane Noone’s, and if she isn’t nominated for an Oscar, I will forever despise the Academy. Noone is brilliant, believable, and touching. Whenever she’s onscreen, we feel as though we’re really in her character’s presence. After experiencing this one, and the credits begin to roll, you’ll think that you’ve actually been in one of the Magdalene asylums for two hours of your life. Noone is the one to thank for this, she’s the one who ties everything together, and makes The Magdalene Sisters as great as it is. Others that deserve the utmost amount of credit are Geraldine McEwan, Anne-Marie Duff, Dorothy Duffy, and Eileen Walsh. Everyone in the cast is, truly, brilliant.


     The original score, composed by Craig Armstrong, is beautiful; it contains some of the best original music, ever created. And it’s not just fabulous because it goes with this movie so well. It’s also extraordinary pleasing to the ear. While buying it on compact-disc may bring back too many of haunting memories, from the film, for it to be enjoyable to listen to, it’s definitely worth the fifteen dollars it’ll cost to purchase. Sometimes the music in a movie is even more important than the story to it. While that’s not the case here, they’re both mind-blowing and masterful, each in their own way.


     Words are beyond me when I think about The Magdalene Sisters, but I’ve tried my best to adequately write about it. What’s more important is that everyone sees it. While the R-rating is necessary, it’s definitely appropriate for most teenagers, if they’re mature enough to handle the subject matter. This one is sure to be the year’s best film, and is very deserving of such a position. It’s the latest classic to be released.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews


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