Opening in 1964, The Magdalene Sisters gives four semi-fictionalised accounts of what life was like in the Magdalene laundries for many young women who had, according to the church, brought shame upon themselves and their families. Three girls Rose (Duffy), Margaret (Duff), Bernadette (Noone) have been sent to a laundry just outside Dublin, and it's there, under the strict discipline of Sister Bridget (McEwan), that they are subjected to a routine of hard labour, humiliation and sexual abuse. While the three girls deal with the system in different ways, another inmate, Crispina (Walsh) finds it difficult to come to terms with her confinement .
First up, forget The Magdalene Sisters when it comes to date movies, as this is a remorseless, emotionally sapping picture. Mullan, while showing some visual flair, recounts the events in an episodic fashion which lends the film an anecdotal air, and there's little sense of progression in the narrative. Similarly, there's little sense of explanation for the vicious nature of the nuns in the Magdalene laundry. Yet even with these discrepancies in mind, it's difficult not to be affected by the film and the performances, by the largely unknown cast, are exceptional.