After redeeming my pass to a sneak preview of Dirty Pretty Things, I somehow stumbled into the wrong theater; when the lights went down and the film began, I discovered that I would be seeing The Magdalene Sisters instead, followed by a Q&A with its director, Peter Mullan. Since Magdalene was one of many movies on my wish list that didn’t fit into my excessively ambitious Philadelphia Film Festival schedule back in April, I sat back and breathed it in.
Set in the 1960s, The Magdalene Sisters is the true story of three young women subjected to the horrors of the Magdalene Laundries, the Irish Catholic equivalent of a labor camp, where wayward girls (generally unwed mothers) were sent to atone for their sins by “working beyond human endurance.” In many ways, this was a by-the-numbers prison flick, but thanks to the efforts of the talented cast and crew, the film is pretty remarkable. All the performances, particularly those of the principle characters, are superbly nuanced. The cinematography unfailingly describes the essence of each scene, volleying very tight and very wide shots, and employing an appropriately stark color palette. Magdalene is certainly not without flaws, occasionally overwrought dialogue and the villainous nuns’ tendency to lack dimension chief among them; all in all, though, it is really well-crafted, and even for someone as cynical and desensitized as myself, the film’s grimness is truly unsettling.
In unrelated news, the Philadelphia stop of the Dismemberment Plan farewell tour was last night at the TLA, and the band made it count, playing a setlist-free, all-request show that lasted nearly two hours. It was bittersweet, to be sure, enjoying such a great show and knowing all the while that it would be my last opportunity to see The Plan live.