Pride might have just beaten Noble to the feel-good-movie-that’s-based-on-a-true-story for this year but this biopic of Christina Noble and her fight to help the homeless children of Vietnam comes a close second.
Christina Noble (Cramer Curtis) grows up in the kind of 1950s Dublin that’s wilfully forgotten when singing along to the Rare Ould Times: open sewers, crumbling housing blocks and one-roomed flats that look like the inside of a cancerous lung. But Christina’s singing voice is her one way out of the orphanage she’s sent to when her mean alcoholic father, Liam Cunningham, is finally deemed unfit by the state.
Although surviving many a travail, including gang-rape at 16 and her baby being given up for adoption against her will, it’s only when her womanising husband subjects her to beatings that Christina (now played by Sarah Greene) properly rails against an uncaring God, who answers her despairing questions in the form of a vision/dream of poverty-stricken children in Vietnam.
Fast forward to 1989 and Christina (O’Kane) arrives in Ho Chi Minh City with an idea - help the kids that roam the streets - but no idea how to follow through. Badgering rich ex-pat (and on-screen hubby in Paths To Freedom) Brendan Coyle for cash to build an institution for homeless kids, some abandoned after birth defects courtesy of Agent Orange, Noble sets about doing something, anything, for these forgotten children.
It’s bad form to go into detail on what doesn’t work with Noble (the simplification of protagonist-antagonist into good person-bad person camps, the shying away from the darker side of things lest it get too depressing for the old dears in the audience) but what writer- director Stephen Bradley (he of the underrated Boy Eats Girl) gets right far outweighs what he doesn’t.
The story keeps the kettle boiling throughout the ever-engaging 100 minutes, which might be down to the funny scene/angry scene/uplifting scene/touching scene (and repeat) narrative style, or the performances he wrangles out of his three leads. Sarah Greene has been bubbling away in minor roles but takes on this meatier role with gusto but the director’s real find is the young Gloria Cramer Curtis. O’Kane’s not too shabby either, working hard to mimic Noble’s dry delivery. All three are singing from the same hymn sheet re: Noble’s mannerisms.