Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom/Ireland, 2002. Scottish Screen, Film Council, Bórd Scannán na hÉireann, Momentum Pictures, PFP Films, Temple Films, Dumfries & Galloway Council, South West Scotland Screen Commission, Scottish Enterprise Dumfries & Galloway, UK Film Council’s New Cinema Fund. Screenplay by Peter Mullan. Cinematography by Nigel Willoughby. Produced by Frances Higson. Music by Craig Armstrong. Production Design by Mark Leese. Costume Design by Trisha Biggar. Film Editing by Colin Monie.
Three Irish Catholic women in 1962 are sent to Magdalene laundries for various reasons, all of which involve religious intolerance of female sexuality: one is a rape victim who is attacked by her cousin, confesses to her family and is immediately put away to hide their shame, another a girl who bears a child out of wedlock and the third a girl who enjoys fun flirting with the boys a bit too much for her schoolmaster’s comfort. They are sent to what is basically a work camp run by vicious, demoralizing nuns who abuse and torture the girls for years until very little is left of their humanity. This heartbreaking true story is a terrifying documentation of a society where poverty, lack of education and religious fanaticism result in the worst kind of dehumanization, with taut direction by Peter Mullan (who also appears in a cameo) and flawless acting. The film will be far too disturbing for sensitive viewers, and often enjoys its darkness to the point of being slightly pompous at times, but it tells such an important story (the last of these laundries closed in 1996!) that absolutely everyone must see it.
European Film Award Nomination: Best European Film
Toronto International Film Festival: 2002
Venice Film Festival Award: Golden Lion