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Movie Review: The Magdalene Sisters

Alternate Title: Get Thee out of the Nunnery

Story: Old habits die hard (I couldn't help that opening line). Run, do not walk, to see this extraordinary film about the shameful laundries that were run by the Order of the Magdalene Sisters under the auspices of the Catholic Church in Ireland until 1996.

Over 30,000 women (mostly barely teenagers) were forcibly thrown into these brutal reformatories for behavior ranging from out of wedlock pregnancies, victims of rape or for just being pretty (the possibility that you actually might have sex). The Church's idea was that one would be able to wash away sinful behavior and thought by doing useful deeds. The bottom line was that the Church had slave labor for over 100 years.

Writer, actor (My Name is Joe) and director Peter Mullan was inspired to create this compelling tour de force after he had seen a documentary on the laundries called Sex in a Cold Climate. (About four years ago, 60 Minutes also did a piece on this scandalous practice.)

This award winning film is exhausting and has no Hollywood sheen or triumphant violins attached. It is fine film making and worth your time, thought and applause. My heart (and rage) goes out to all of the Mary - Margarets, Bridgets, Erins, Kates and Patricias who lost their youth as subjects in these laundries.

Acting: A fabulous ensemble cast. Kudos to the four major characters, Ann-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone. Dorothy Duffy and Eileen Walsh. Geraldine McEwan is also saluted (although she sure scared me) as the most horrible Mother Superior.

Predilection: None.

Critters: Thankfully, none.

Food: The girls were fed some type of gruel while the Sisters ate bacon, bread and eggs. Oranges were also featured as a special treat at Christmas.

Visual Art: None.

Blatant Product Placement: If one thinks of the Catholic Church as a product - this surely is not good advertising.

Opening Titles: The opening sequence is a grabber.

Theater Audience: A handful of disgruntled Catholics and me. There was some cheering and booing at certain points in the film. I was too horrified by what I was watching to make any audibles.

Sappy Factor: Surely there was no hint of sap in this bleak situation.

Squirm Scale: What degradation these women had to endure made me quite squirmy.

Predictability Level: Moderate.

Tissue Usage: One.

Oscar Worthy: Yes.

Nit Picking: No nits to pick.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure. If you are in need of another unflattering portrait of the Church you might want to rent, The Boys of St. Vincent's.

Length: Two difficult hours.