Parents' Guide to

The Magdalene Sisters

By Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Harrowing drama has physical and sexual abuse, language.

Movie R 2003 114 minutes
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That such asylums existed in real life gives this powerful drama an even more sinister edge. The Magdalene Sisters invites viewers to contemplate what happened to young women in Ireland in the name of religion and respectability right up to the mid '90s -- and no doubt beyond. Writer and director Peter Mullan frames the drama in a matter-of-fact way that lets the strong performances hit hard without drawing away from the grim reality. It's a film with something important to say that balances anger, emotional intimacy and restraint to incredibly strong effect.

As the three central characters, Anne-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone, and Dorothy Duffy are perfectly cast, giving sympathetic, complex performances, playing out internal conflicts and the trauma of the experience while refusing to be broken. As fellow "inmate" Crispina, Eileen Walsh is a stand-out, with a frenetic energy that heightens the tension and sense of psychological distress bubbling beneath the surface in every scene she's in. Geraldine McEwan is the stuff of nightmares as Sister Bridget, absolute venom in her words and looks, and a mask-like smile hungry with malevolence. It's definitely a film reliant on the impact of its believable performances, and none disappoint. The Magdalene Sisters is an intense watch, but one that allows its central characters a sense of hope and power, even amid the atrocities.

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