The Magdalene Sisters
The Magdalene Laundries, run by the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland until they were closed in 1996, were de facto jails for “fallen” women. In writer-director Peter Mullan’s inexorably grim The Magdalene Sisters, set on the outskirts of Dublin in the sixties, we appear to be watching a new species of prison movie. Among those featured are Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone), an orphan who has been interned for nothing more serious than flirtiness; Rose (Dorothy Duffy), an unmarried mother whose wrenching separation from her infant son is the film’s emotional high point; and Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff), who is packed off to the laundry by her family after being raped by a cousin. Presiding over the girls is Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan), who makes Louise Fletcher’s head nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest seem almost human. Mullan’s rage at religious hypocrisy sometimes gets the better of him—he admits almost no furtive flashes of cheer into his chamber of horrors—but his righteousness has a factual base: Many of the incidents depicted were derived from an extensively researched British TV documentary, Sex in a Cold Climate. When it comes time for some of the girls to flee, the result is one of the most emotionally satisfying of all prison breaks. (1 hr. 59 mins.; R) — PETER RAINER
Opens August 1
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