Geraldine McEwan as Sister Bridget
Anne-Marie Duff as Margaret
Nora-Jane Noone as Bernadette
Dorothy Duffy as Rose/Patricia
Eileen Walsh as Crispina/Harriet
Mary Murray as Una
Britta Smith as Katy
Frances Healy as Sister Jude
Eithne McGuinness as Sister Clementine
Phyllis MacMahon as Sister Augusta
Rebecca Walsh as Josephine
Eamonn Owens as Eamonn, Margaret’s brother
Chris Simpson as Brendan
Sean Colgan as Seamus
Daniel Costello as Father Fitzroy
British TV documentary on the same subject, “Sex in a Cold Climate”
Widescreen (1.85:1) Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French Language Track
French & Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 120 Minutes
In the 1960’s in Ireland, three young women are sent to a Catholic asylum for crimes they did not commit. Margaret is sent away by her ashamed father after her cousin rapes her. Bernadette is sent away from an orphanage after being labeled a “temptress”. Rose is also sent away after giving birth to a baby. They all arrive together at the convent called the Magdalene Laundry. There Sister Bridget oversees them as they are subjected to abuse, humiliation, and beatings to atone for their supposed sins. Essentially slave labor in a prison, the general public looks the other way as these girls are mentally and physically tortured by nuns from the church. Some break down while others are determined to escape.
The Magdalene Sisters is rated R for violence/cruelty, nudity, sexual content and language.
If you thought The Passion of The Christ was 2 hours of religious torture, you should see The Magdalene Sisters. While it isn’t a crucifixion, it is a long, tough depiction of unbearable cruelty, injustice, and mental torture. I’ve often stated that I go to the movies to be entertained, not beaten down. This movie was made to expose the dark injustices inflicted on thousands of girls by the Catholic Church. As you can probably guess, I didn’t care for it.
Don’t get me wrong. The film is well acted, the story is told well, and it’s a tale of tragedy worth telling. However, it’s not pleasant at all to watch. I don’t find it entertaining to see promising young women beaten down and mentally and physically abused by nuns. It tears me up inside to think that these people who are supposed to be representatives of God could be so cruel and vicious. They strip the girls naked and mock them. They beat them with whips. They lock them away like prisoners and treat them like animals. It’s so un-Christian-like I don’t know where to begin. It’s even more heart wrenching to know it all really happened. So, again, it’s not a fun movie at all to watch.
The three lead actresses are promising talents. Anne-Marie Duff is tough and independent as Margaret. Dorothy Duffy is shy and vulnerable as Rose. Nora-Jane Noone is a girl pushed to the brink as Bernadette. Geraldine McEwan is also simply evil as Sister Bridget. If she doesn’t haunt your nightmares, I don’t know what will.
Your enjoyment of this movie will depend entirely on why you go to movies. If you want to be emotionally moved, this film will fit the bill. If you go to escape reality, then stay away from The Magdalene Sisters.
“Sex in a Cold Climate” This is the one and only extra included on the DVD. It is a 50 minute or so documentary that was originally featured on British TV. It also inspired director / writer Peter Mullan to make this movie. It features original footage of these asylums as well as interviews with women who were committed to them. Their stories are truly terrible and it’s amazing to hear that this system was in place all the way until 1996.
The Bottom Line:
The Magdalene Sisters is a well made film, but not one for light entertainment.