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THE MAGDALENE SISTERS

Based on fact, this is an account of the ungodly physical abuse and mental torture that took place behind the walls of the prison-like Sisters of Mercy convent in Dublin

CAST: Anne-Marie Duff, Dorothy Duffy, Geraldine McEwan, Nora-Jane Noone, Eileen Walsh, Peter Mullan

DIRECTOR: Peter Mullan

"‘The Magdalene Sisters’ is a fist of fury, a savage, sledgehammer attack on questionable practices by Ireland's Catholic Church that is so fierce and furious, such a rip-roaring exposé, that the Vatican itself howled in outrage…Once inside, these women were forbidden contact with the outside world, which returned the favor by ignoring what went on behind the walls. The inmates were forced to work without pay in the Magdalene's institutional laundries and were in general treated like prisoners…Unabashedly outraged by the injustices of the system, Mullan and his cast have created a fierce piece of agitprop cinema that is as merciless as the system it is driven to expose…while ‘Sisters’ is a machine constructed to devastate audiences, its pared-down, neorealistic style keeps the story from feeling excessive. Graced with performers who bring a purity of emotion to their work, the film is always dramatically convincing." --Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

"This is a vital, responsible and powerful film to which attention must be paid. I have seen it twice, and remain devastated…Despite the elements of Grand Guignol that lurk from every shadow in this film, the shocking conditions and events depicted in ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ are completely true…Mullan has distilled the gruesome details of so much human suffering into an effectively paced narrative that tells a grim story coherently, with cinematic passion that never flinches from raw details…The Catholic church has a lot to answer for, but if the bedlam over pedophile priests still carries salty wounds, wait till they get a look at The Magdalene Sisters. For me, it’s a great film that deserves genuflection." --Rex Reed, The New York Observer

"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." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"Played by Geraldine McEwan with a steely collectedness that makes the blood run cold, Sister Bridget lords over a Magdalene asylum, one of the several laundry- cum-work camps in Ireland where bad Catholic girls were sequestered for years -- lifetimes, in some cases -- in order to have their sins washed away…Director-writer Mullan masterfully infuses dramatic conventions more commonly found in a concentration camp saga or a women-behind-bars picture with the primal appeal of a tale by the Brothers Grimm… An accomplished actor himself, Mullan elicits top-flight performances across the board, led by the magnificent McEwan." --Jan Stuart, Newsday

"In a brilliant performance, Ms. McEwan makes this character horribly believable by portraying her cruelty not as raw sadism but as righteous punishment dispensed by a religious fanatic with a warped sense of values… ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ more than fulfills the promise of Mr. Mullan's audacious feature film debut, ‘Orphans’…‘The Magdalene Sisters’ would be too painful to watch if it didn't have a silver lining. Suffice it say that it is possible to fly over this religious cuckoo's nest and remain free." --Stephen Holden, The New York Times

"Geraldine McEwan is fiercely magnificent as Sister Bridget, letting flickers of humanity shine through the cruelty. Mullan errs by making all the sisters dragon ladies. Still, the film gets to you; it's a powerhouse." --Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"Sister Bridget and her ilk are mere cartoons and the violence they wield is so numbing that the film borders on the preposterous. There's no discernable structure to this facile, episodic torture mechanism yet Mullan hopes that you'll approach this film as a work of activism. That ‘Magdalene Sisters’ arrives stateside with the full censure of the Vatican more or less confirms Mullan's job-well-done." --Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine

"Though the Catholic Church hasn’t been all that keen on admitting it, the Magdalene Laundries, as they were also called, really existed and were, by many accounts, even worse than the dungeonlike sweatshop depicted in Mullan’s film…rather than simply wagging his finger at the Church, Mullan (who is, like both the heroines and the villainesses of his film, Catholic) canvasses a broader terrain, faulting not any one particular system of organized belief, but the blind submission by any group of people to any such system. He is as ashamed as he is outraged, not at Catholicism itself, but at its exploitation by those entrusted to uphold its principles and by those who would knowingly lock up their daughters to wash away the sins of an entire nation." --Scott Foundas, LA Weekly

"This is hard, often harrowing story-telling, about women who lose all faith in life while forced into servitude for cruel jailers who themselves supposedly are guided by faith…It's tough material, presented honestly without sensationalism by a cast of young actors who give searing performances." --Marshall Fine, The Journal News

"‘The Magdalene Sisters’ is basically a women-in-prison movie—in which the innocent prisoners (generally referred to as ‘hoors’) are isolated from the world and subjected to a hideous, spirit-crushing regime of constant work, continual browbeating, and total degradation…The unrelenting situation is rendered all the more claustrophobic by the many close-ups…This shocker is often shameless, not least in the climactic confrontation with Sister Bridget, but it's impossible not to be moved by the ending—if only because the torture is finally over." --J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

"Instantly condemned by the Catholic Church and protested by nuns at its award-winning Venice Film Festival premiere, ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ offers a kind of worst-case glimpse into the draconian Magdalene Asylums that were begun in the late 19th century and lasted well into the 1990s…Mullan has been criticized for condensing the extreme abuses of asylums into an overloaded melodrama, and he does, but I don't fault him for it. That women of legal age were held against their will by the church is a ghastly violation of human rights in any civilized culture… The whole system was sadistic and indefensible, and the church, looking the other way as long as profits rolled in from the laundries, deserves the scorn that Mullan and his fine cast heap on it." --Jack Mathews, The New York Daily News

"‘The Magdalene Sisters’ is a pungent, powerful film that points an accusing finger not at religious beliefs but at flawed human institutions. It also targets social and cultural mores that are almost medieval in their patriarchal bias against girls and women…Peter Mullan’s fictionalized screenplay brings awful realities to vivid life, reminding us that piety without compassion is meaningless." --David Sterritt, The Chistian Science Monitor

"Mullan triggers all your emotions — anger, sorrow, pity, disgust, shame. And once he gets hold of you, he won't let go. The story may get a tad sappy and contrived — one girl is freed by her brother on Christmas Day — but you're hooked. You'll walk away amazed at the heartlessness of the people running the asylums and wondering how such a gruesome practice could have existed into the late 20th century." --V.A. Musetto, The New York Post