A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mature drama begins with a woman leaving her husband after he has beaten her (beating is unseen, but her bloody, bruised face is visible). The movie includes tense family scenes, when the woman argues with her father (a miner who believes she should have stayed with her husband), and with her son (who eventually learns the identity of his father, a high school teacher who raped his mother when she was a student: this violent scene appears in flashback pieces, and might upset younger viewers). The film includes repeated scenes of harsh harassment of women workers at the mine: graffiti, rough language, semen left in a locker, a PortAJohn turned over with a woman inside, and one man assaults a woman, pressing her onto a pile of rocks and leaving her dirty and bruised. High school hockey games include some typical roughness. A woman develops Lou Gherig's disease and we see her deterioration.
What's the story?
When Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) finally leaves her abusive husband, her future looks bleak. With her two kids, she relocates to the last place she ever wanted to go, her parents' home in Northern Minnesota. She takes a job down at the mine, where her friend Glory (Frances McDormand) serves as a union rep, supported emotionally by her husband Kyle (Sean Bean). Josey soon faces ridicule and rebuke from her male coworkers, their wives, her employers, and even her dad. The other women miners have resigned themselves to the routine. Still, everyone but Glory blames Josey for the increase in abuse, which the film shows in grotesque detail. Childish, crude, and horrific, these tactics only gird Josey's resistance. She convinces Bill White (Woody Harrelson), a onetime local hockey star and New York lawyer, to help her bring a class action lawsuit against the company.
Is it any good?
Boldly melodramatic and occasionally overwrought, NORTH COUNTRY means well, but it doesn't trust viewers to keep up (and honestly, it's not moving that fast). Laying on cruelties, climactic plot turns, and tragic figures (Josey sheds earnest tears in the courtroom for gallant supporters as much as for brief, tension-building failures), the film overstates its case -- especially in the courtroom scenes – when less is more effective.
As the film more or less locks you into Josey's perspective, it appears that even the bleak environment (effected by Chris Menges' splendid grey imagery) signifies her perpetual exhaustion. And the sheer weight of her burden is emphasized by director Niki (Whale Rider) Caro's soap operatic inflections: extended takes of pained faces, scenes showcasing family tensions, and plaintive Bob Dylan sound track music all make plain Josey's heavy burden.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the courage it takes for Josey to stand up to her employers and her coworkers, including men and women who just want to keep their jobs. She also faces condemnation from her miner father: how does their reconciliation begin when he sees her harassed by other men? How does Josey's relationship with her own kids change as she persists in her struggle for equal treatment on the job and in town?
- In theaters: October 21, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: February 21, 2006
- Cast: Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson
- Director: Niki Caro
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 126 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sequences involving sexual harassment including violence and dialogue, and for language
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