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
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
She’s been confined in one building for years and
She’s wearing the exact same uniform as every other
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
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.