The Magdalene Sisters

( 11 )

Overview

One of the Catholic Church's most infamous institutions is the focus of this controversial independent feature from Scottish actor and erstwhile director Peter Mullan. Set in 1964, The Magdalene Sisters hones in on the Magdalene convent, a place where purportedly wayward young women have been sent by their families for reform. Many of the girls are locked up in the institution for questionable "sins," and the movie presents several of them as case studies: Margaret Anne-Marie Duff, who is sent away after being ...
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Overview

One of the Catholic Church's most infamous institutions is the focus of this controversial independent feature from Scottish actor and erstwhile director Peter Mullan. Set in 1964, The Magdalene Sisters hones in on the Magdalene convent, a place where purportedly wayward young women have been sent by their families for reform. Many of the girls are locked up in the institution for questionable "sins," and the movie presents several of them as case studies: Margaret Anne-Marie Duff, who is sent away after being sexually assaulted by a cousin at a wedding; Rose Dorothy Duffy and Crispina Eileen Walsh, who are both unwed mothers; and Bernadette Nora-Jane Noone, whose licentiousness has raised the ire of her former orphanage. It soon becomes clear that the reformatory is more of a manual-labor prison, however, as their girls are forced to work long hours and endure endless physical humiliation and abuse at the hands of the head nun, Sister Bridget Geraldine McEwan. As their degradation at the hands of the convent's administrators increases, each girl plots her escape, but each finds that she's never far enough from the sisters' all-encompassing reach. The Magdalene Sisters premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it was awarded the festival's top prize, the Golden Lion; the Vatican officially condemned the film after its premiere.
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
This well-made but harrowing drama offers an unflinching look at modern-day institutionalized cruelty that borders on the barbaric. It tells the true stories of several young Irish women sentenced to indefinite penal servitude in the Magdalene Laundries, which were operated by the Catholic Church's Sisters of Mercy. Writer-director Peter Mullan focuses on three characters, each accused of different "crimes": Margaret Anne-Marie Duff, raped by a relative at a family gathering; Bernadette Nora-Jane Noone, a flirtatious orphan; and the unmarried Rose Dorothy Duffy, who chose to bear her child rather than seek an abortion, only to be condemned anyway. What's particularly fascinating about The Magdalene Sisters is how closely it resembles the old-fashioned "women in prison" movies of yesteryear. There is a relentlessly evil "warden" in sadistic Sister Bridget Geraldine McEwan, a fellow inmate turned snitch Mary Murray, and a mentally handicapped, emotionally fragile prisoner Eileen Walsh who is ready to crack. In another nod to prison-genre tropes, the girls suffer abuse at the hands of their warders -- including a priest -- and offer sexual favors in exchange for opportunities to escape. But Mullan doesn't employ these familiar situations exploitatively; he does so to highlight the extraordinary nature of this prison held over from the Middle Ages, a tradition jarringly out of place with Western Europe in the 20th century. The film's detractors have condemned it as a "hit" on the Catholic Church, but the validity of Mullan's claims have been borne out recently by million-dollar settlements to victims of the Magdalene institutions the last of which closed only eight years ago. Given that their operation was such a recent phenomenon, The Magdalene Sisters is far more shocking than it would have been as a story set hundreds of years ago. But it's also an extremely well crafted movie that you won't easily forget.
All Movie Guide - Michael Hastings
Crafted with the kind of care and urgency that can only come from being personally invested in a subject, writer/director Peter Mullan's scathing exposé The Magdalene Sisters goes above and beyond predictable movie-of-the-week requirements to offer up a harrowing, first-hand view of the kind of inhumanity and persecution that might, in other times and circumstances, warrant the attention of a group like Amnesty International. From its opening scene -- involving a young woman's rape at a family gathering, told without dialogue -- the film adopts an unflinching, distant-but-sympathetic tone that creates a genuine sense of outrage and suspense for the viewer, without ever pandering to easy sympathy. The young women in Mullan's film -- brilliantly embodied by Anne-Marie Duff, Dorothy Duffy, Nora-Jane Noone, and Eileen Walsh -- don't spend much time pondering their assignment to the Magdalene convent/asylum the way they would in Girl, Interrupted or any one of a number of inferior, American "wayward girl" films. Instead, theirs is a more tactical, resigned existence, one in which escape is elusive and bitter compromise is the only means for survival. Where other directors might play up the syrupy bonding between the girls, Mullan doesn't shy away from the in-fighting and the resentment among them, even as he shows the small ways in which they try to protect one another. If the director's representation of the convent's Catholic administration is a more than a little sadistic, it's very much in line with the acts of brutality and humiliation we see them commit, as well as with Mullan's unerring effort to give the audience his lead characters' point-of-view.
Washington Post - Desson Howe
Mullan's movie is admiringly uncompromising. He refuses to augment the horrors with relief.
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert
1/2
A harrowing look at institutional cruelty, perpetrated by the Catholic Church in Ireland, and justified by a perverted hysteria about sex.
Los Angeles Times - Kenneth Turan
Graced with performers who bring a purity of emotion to their work, the film is always dramatically convincing. There is a fundamental air of truth about it, a sense that, horrific though things seem, this is how it must have been.

Mullan's movie is admiringly uncompromising. He refuses to augment the horrors with relief.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/14/2011
  • UPC: 031398139140
  • Original Release: 2002
  • Rating:

  • Source: Miramax Lionsgate
  • Time: 2:00:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Anne-Marie Duff Margaret
Dorothy Duffy Rose/Patricia
Eileen Walsh Crispina
Nora-Jane Noone Bernadette
Geraldine McEwan Sister Bridget
Mary Murray Una
Britta Smith Katy
Frances Healy Sister Jude
Eithne McGuinness Sister Clementine
Phyllis McMahon
Rebecca Walsh
Eamonn Owens
Chris Simpson
Sean Colgan
Daniel Costello
Julie Austin
Sean McDonagh
Technical Credits
Peter Mullan Director, Screenwriter
Craig Armstrong Score Composer
Trisha Biggar Costumes/Costume Designer
David Gilchrist Asst. Director
Caroline Grebbell Art Director
Ed Guiney Executive Producer
Frances Higson Producer
Jean Kerr Art Director
Mark Leese Production Designer
Colin Monie Editor
Lenny Mullan Casting
Colin Nicolson Sound/Sound Designer
Paul Trijbits Executive Producer
Alan J. Wands Co-producer
Nigel Willoughby Cinematographer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2013

    A must-watch for anybody who is--or was--Catholic. The Catholic

    A must-watch for anybody who is--or was--Catholic. The Catholic Church had slaves as late as 1996! In 2013, the Irish government released a report on this scandal--a damning 1,000-plus page report on Feb. 5, 2013 detailed the way women and girls were forced into slavery for the nun-controlled laundries, which the movie, The Magdalene Sisters, exposes:
    U.N. HAD TO GET INVOLVED: The inquiry into the Magdalene scandal was prompted by a report from the UN Committee Against Torture in June 2011. It called for prosecutions where necessary and compensation to surviving women.
    IRELAND CLOSED VATICAN EMBASSY IN 2012: To watch a scathing T.V. news report from Dublin on the astonishing closing of the Vatican's embassy in 2012, Google "Ireland in Row over Catholic Church."  The report's findings follow investigations where priests were found to have beaten and raped children in Catholic-run institutions, and the church helped cover-up for the rapes--priests were simply transferred to serve elsewhere; over 50 were sent to churches in the USA! That, and now the slavery of women have shattered the authority of the church in Ireland and rocked the Catholic Church's reputation worldwide.
    988 GRAVES FOUND ON CHURCH GROUNDS OF WOMEN and GIRLS WHO DID NOT SURVIVE IT: At least 988 of the women who were buried in laundry grounds are thought to have spent most of their lives inside the institutions. The youngest death (on record) was 15, and the oldest 95, the report found.
    YOUNG GIRLS IN ADDITION TO WOMEN: The youngest slave (on record) was a 9 year-old girl. There were many slaves around 12 years-old. Half of the girls enslaved in these Catholic Church prisons were under the age of 23, when the church turned them into slaves. But older women were there, too; which scared the young ones who feared they would spend the rest of their lives in that horror... and nobody reassured them otherwise. Even today, survivors suffer from psychological trauma inflicted upon them.
    WHAT WERE THE SLAVES TOLD: They were not informed WHY they were there, they had no information on WHEN they could leave and were denied contact with the outside world," said the Feb. 5, 2013 report.
    LIKE MOST SLAVES, COULDN'T EVEN KEEP THEIR NAMES: Labelled the "Maggies", the women and girls were stripped of their names and dumped in Irish Catholic church-run laundries where nuns treated them as slaves.
    HOW DID THE SLAVES END UP THERE: Simply because they were unmarried mothers, orphans or regarded as somehow morally wayward--in the movie, when an orphan objects that she's never even been with a boy and was a good girl, the nun explains she was there because she was a "temptress". Some were enslaved for "crimes" as small as not paying a train ticket!
    HOW LONG DID THE SLAVERY GO ON: Although the movie starts out in 1964, for over 74 years, 10,000 women were forced to be slaves in de facto detention, mostly in laundries run by nuns at the nunnery the official report investigated. (But, there are similar Catholic Church-run institutions who used slavery in Ireland not yet investigated.) The last Magdalene Laundry the government is aware of closed in 1996.
    WHY DIDN'T THEY ESCAPE: For many, the only escape was death. Doors and gates were locked. Nuns acted as guards. Punishment was severe for any who attempted to escape. If they were able to make it to the outside world, the nuns simply called the Irish police force, who dutifully believed anything the nuns told them, and captured the escapees and returned the slaves to the nuns. 15 percent spent more than five years in the laundries while the average stay was calculated at seven months, according to one report. But some victims say they spent most of their adult lives as slaves for the Catholic Church.
    WHOSE LAUNDRY WAS IT: The Catholic Church made money off their slaves' labor, forcing them to launder for private firms, individuals, and even the state.
    STATE GUILTY, AS WELL AS CATHOLIC CHURCH: The state gave lucrative laundry contracts to the Catholic Church's nunnery-run laundry institutions, without either the Church or the State bothering to comply with Fair Wage Clauses and in the absence of any compliance with Social Insurance obligations.
    HOW THE CATHOLIC CHURCH EXCUSED IT: Surprise, surprise, the Catholic Church blew the women off: Cardinal Sean Brady, the most senior Catholic cleric in Ireland, met with Justice for Magdalenes in 2010. He said "by today's standards much of what happened at that time is difficult to comprehend" but that it was a matter for the religious orders who ran the laundries to deal with. The religious orders have declined to meet the women. (It's not the Catholic Church's fault... where have we heard THAT before? Just whose fault IS it, then?)
    Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. God will repay. Until then, I pray for the victims, both dead and alive.WARNING: You will cry when you watch this movie. Just knowing that it is true, was enough to tear my heart out. I repeat, the Catholic Church had slaves as late as 1996!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A True Story That's More Shocking Than Most Horror Films

    When I first saw this film, I was in a state of shock for almost a week. "The Magdelene Sisters" really is that disturbing a movie. It has all the classic elements of any great prison flick but nearly everything that happens in this film really did happen.

    Set in the mid-1960's in Ireland, the story centers on three young Irish women. One of them has been raped by a relative during a wedding. Another has a child out of wedlock. And another is a teenage orphan who is deemed "too cute" and flirting with boys. In a society like Ireland, which looked at sex as if it was worse than murder, these girls were sent to The Magdelene Laundries. It was a place where so-called wayward women were sent to work washing the laundry and "clense" their sins. Many of them worked long, hard hours and were never paid but the nuns who ran these institutions got paid a pretty penny for it. The nuns were also very sadistic and cruel; in one scene, they take particular relish in ridiculing the girls standing naked in front of them.

    The women in these laundries basically have no rights. They often stayed there until their families said they could return home. Some of them stayed until they died. Their misery is endless, particuarly a woman named Crispina, a mentally unstable woman who had a baby out of wedlock and is abused by the local priest. What happens to her is certainly the most tragic outcome of this film. Some of the women even try to escape, which seems to be the only way out for them. But escape to where? A society that treats women as badly as the Taliban treated the women in Afghanistan, perhaps.

    The legacy of The Magdelene Laundries is certainly not lost in light of the scandals that have been facing The Catholic Church lately. Especially when you consider that the laundries produced some 30,000 victims---one of them, by the way, was singer Sinead O'Connor. Yet, even when the laundries shut down for good in 1996, it wasn't completely over; one story a few years ago told of a graveyard behind one of those laundries where the bodies of these women were just dumped like a mass grave in a concentration camp.

    This film could've been told in an exploitative way but luckily director Peter Mullan doesn't resort to that. His focus is on these women and he makes that focus ours, too. The DVD also comes with a shattering documentary, "Sex In A Cold Climate", which first aired on Britian's Channel 4 and features a lot of themes and plots brought up in the movie. An unnerving experience, to say the very least. Though this movie is certainly recommended for anyone who still believes in child (or slave) labor in this election year.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    This is an absolutely infuriating movie

    And I mean that in a good way. Just be prepared for some serious righteous anger. Great cast, excellent performances. Don't miss the documentary at the end about the real people the story was based on.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Should Be Required Viewing For Everyone

    If you're just looking for a couple of hours of mindless entertainment,then look elsewhere.This movie is a real eye opener and one that stays with you long after the ending.This is not a work of fiction,these atrocities actually happend. Magdalene Sisters tells the story of just one of the Magdalene Laundries,and the stories of several of the girls who were sent there for the various &quot crimes&quot of having a child out of wedlock,being raped,flirting a little,being too pretty,etc.The laundries were nothing more than Catholic church sponsored slavery and after viewing this film I did some research on the Magdalene Laundries and I was absolutely enraged after reading what went on in them and how any woman could be sent to one for any reason.The Catholic church has tried to downplay this and cover this up,just like they have tried to downplay and cover up so many other chapters of their less than idealic history,but the truth has been told and meer apologies just won't do! Shame on the Catholic church for allowing this to happen and shame on all who participated in the abuse of so many victims!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Harrowing

    As a member of the Catholic Church and of Irish descent, I find the Church's actions then and now reprehensible. The Vatican may deny what they know about those in the launderies but they knew what happened. Those women gave 5 lifetimes of Hell and probably would find the after life version of it rather benevolent. Scary that this happened and is still happening in South and Central America and other places that we may not know of.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    captivating

    I recently watched this movie and I thought about it for days afterwards. This movie addresses an issue that certainly needed to be told. I was moved by the characters and outraged by the treatment they endured. To realize this is a true story is mind blowing! This movie is a true learning experience I highly recommend watching it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Emotional

    It was a good movie, but painful. The ending was not what I expected because I was expecting a revenge since nuns abused girls so bad. But, it was nonfictional, so it was cool. Highly recommended for learning the historical facts of brutality in yesteryears' female recorrectional program in Irland.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A must have

    This movie belongs in every womans home. It touchs a part of your soul, that defies all boundries.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    MUST SEE

    I LOVED THIS MOVIE THE BEST MOVIE I HAVE SEEN IN A LONG TIME EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE THIS MOVIE I THOUGHT ALL THE ACTORS AND ACTRESSES DID A GREAT JOB THE STORY WAS DEPRESSING BUT A STORY THAT NEEDED TO BE TOLD!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Definate 'must see'

    I just rented this movie today. I was so captivated, that I just hated to have to leave it to answer the door! This is one movie that I might have passed over looking at the cover on the DVD. It was the Barnes & Noble write up that I read a few days ago that made me give it a try!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews