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Magdelene Sisters

Year: 2003
Director: Peter Mullan
Writer: Peter Mullan
Cast: Anne-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy
A medley of misery. Effective, but almost straight away you'll be hoping there's some kind of redemption and satisfaction at the end because you can see what's going to happen and for it to just get worse would be unbearable.

Three young girls, Margaret, Rose and Bernadette, commit heinous crimes against God in 1960s Ireland by being raped by a cousin, having a baby out of wedlock and being flirtatious to boys (school authorities know that leads to a life of sin and vice) respectively.

They're all packed off to a convent laundry by their shamed families where a life of servitude and hard work awaits them, the only way to cleanse their souls and be allowed into heaven.

As a film, a very strong statement against the religious institution of Catholicism and Christianity generally in the era. The laundry is a prison, the girls slaves, the work backbreaking and neverending and the treatment by the nuns brutal and cruel, both mentally and physically.

Plenty of opportunity is taken to show the hypocrisy and cruelty of religious authority. The mother superior preaches the virtues of poverty and chastity while collecting money in a tin in her office. An old novice who's been there her whole life is on her deathbed feeling glorious that she's among friends when young Bernadette can tell her with a straight face that she's been nothing but a workhorse. And the nuns line the girls up naked and hold competitions about the biggest, hairiest etc., to no purpose but to humiliate them.

What's frustrating is that everyone in the convent bows to the authority, and it's up to Bernadette - the only one who has any spirit - to lead herself and Rose to the escape you hope has been coming. An effective movie, not a good one, and only just satisfying because of the conclusion. Based on a true story and the three leads are beautiful and heartbreaking.

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