Rated: 18, 119 mins
Director: Peter Mullan
Starring: Nora-Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy, Eileen Walsh, Anne-Marie Duff, Geraldine McEwan
Set in the mid 20th Century in Ireland, this powerful film traces the lives of three brave girls who endured an ordeal in the infamous Magdalene Laundries.
Introduced simply and swiftly to the three girls, we discover that Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone) is seen as a threat of promiscuity to her orphanage for merely flirting with some boys, Rose (Dorothy Duffy) is sent to the laundry for having an illegitimate child and finally Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff) is shipped off for being raped.
As the story unfolds, the cruelty and nature of the laundries is exposed and certainly has an impact upon the viewer. None of the girls inside had committed any real crimes, and yet they were left and cast away by their families and societies to spend their days behind closed doors, under the supposed watchful eyes of the nuns.
This film is based on the true stories of these girls’ lives, and seems to be on most accounts a very realistic reproduction of the inhuman conditions of these unofficial prisons. From beatings to lock ins, the girls faced every day struggles. Forbidden to communicate, stripped of their identities, unable to leave and punished severely for escape attempts, these were places of incarceration, not rehabilitation.
It’s an incredible documentation of just a snapshot of some of the women who suffered and lost their lives to the laundries, whether physically or mentally. Over 30,000 women are estimated to have been taken in at some point during the existence of these institutions and it is incredible to believe so little attention prior to the past few years has been drawn to this black spot in history.
One of the most moving films I have watched recently, it’s still available on iPlayer until December 30th, but if you miss it there I would recommend going out and buying the DVD as soon as you can.