–2002, Peter Mullan
The Magdalene Sisters is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest without the humor of Jack Nicholson. It’s Girl, Interrupted without the magnetism of Angelina Jolie and the promise that in the end, everyone was there for a reason. Most upsetting of all, it’s based on true stories, and a system that really existed in Ireland.
Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff) was raped. Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone) has flocks of boys hanging over the railing of the playground to talk to her. Rose (Dorothy Duffy) and Crispina (Eileen Walsh) have had babies out of wedlock. For these sins, they are sent to the Magdalene Asylum, where they work in a laundry under the strict eyes of nuns until the nuns find them absolved of their sins. Katy (Britta Smith) has been there all of her life.
At times painful to watch, this movie is a scathing indictment of the Catholic Church and those who believe in it. Peter Mullan wrote and directed with an unrelenting eye for detail and image (Crispina will not wash the priest’s collars, but she does not mind cleaning bloody rags). Unlike the two movies I mentioned above, this one never romanticizes the situations of the girls, or their eventual departures from the asylum. The girls are not Hollywood actors playing unpretty, and they do a wonderful job conveying the degradation they are put through. There is little comic relief in this movie, but it should be seen.
Mullan saves the hardest bit of information for last: the last Magdalene asylum closed in 1996.