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15 The Magdalene Sisters (2003)
Reviewed by Neil Smith
updated 18th February 2003

reviewer's rating
four star
User Rating 5 out of 5


Peter Mullan

Peter Mullan

Geraldine McEwan
Anne-Marie Duff
Eileen Walsh
Dorothy Duffy
Nora-Jane Noone
Mary Murray
Britta Smith
Chris Simpson

119 minutes


21st February 2003


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Peter Mullan interview

Geraldine McEwan interview

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Average rating:
5 from 911 votes

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Peter Mullan made his name starring in Ken Loach's "My Name is Joe", but his talents extend far beyond acting.

Indeed, Loach would be proud of this Scottish polymath's second outing as writer-director, the gritty, emotional, and provocative story of "fallen women" incarcerated by the Catholic Church in 60s Ireland.

"The Magdalene Sisters" won the Golden Lion at Venice, despite facing a barrage of criticism from the Catholic community.

One can understand their dismay: Mullan's film depicts the nuns supervising the infamous Magdalene convents as heartless and vindictive bullies who subjected their charges to both physical and mental abuse.

However, few can question the veracity of what Mullan has called "one of the great injustices of the second half of the 20th century".

The film - partly financed by Jim Kerr of Simple Minds fame - is based on true accounts, some of which are a lot more horrifying than the events shown here.

The film concentrates on four of the 30,000 women detained in the Magdalene laundries - for having children out of wedlock, for being promiscuous or for just being orphans.

Mullan's grimly naturalistic chronicle sets the cruelty of the nuns (led by McEwan's hatchet-faced Sister Bridget) against the girls' forbearance, solidarity, and eventual revolt against their oppressors.

In a cast of virtual unknowns, Nora-Jane Noone makes a compelling acting debut as the rebellious Bernadette, while Eileen Walsh is heartbreaking as the tragic Crispina.

A harrowing insight into a dark period of religious repression, and a personal triumph for the multi-tasking Mr Mullan.

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