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The Magdalene Sisters (2003)

The Magdalene Sisters


Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 147
Fresh: 133
Rotten: 14

Critics Consensus: A typical women-in-prision film made untypical because it's based on real events.

Average Rating: 8/10
Reviews Counted: 41
Fresh: 41
Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: A typical women-in-prision film made untypical because it's based on real events.


Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 13,018


Movie Info

A drama which charts several years in the young lives of four "fallen women" who were rejected by their families and abandoned to the mercy of the Catholic Church in 1960's Ireland. While women's liberation is sweeping the globe, these women are stripped of their liberty and dignity, and they're condemned to indefinite sentences of servitude in The Magdalene Laundries in order to atone for their "sins." The last Magdalene Asylum in Ireland closed in 1996, and only since has the true horror of … More

R (for violence/cruelty, nudity, sexual content and language)
Directed By:
Written By:
Peter Mullan
In Theaters:
Mar 23, 2004
Box Office:
Miramax Films - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Magdalene Sisters

All Critics (151) | Top Critics (42) | Fresh (133) | Rotten (14) | DVD (21)

This drama about a shocking reality from recent history balances a light touch with searing intensity and a sense of moral outrage.

Full Review… | March 11, 2008
Top Critic

Grimly believable.

Full Review… | March 11, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

You may never look at a nun the same way again.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The Magdalene Sisters has the force of an alarm being sounded.

September 5, 2003
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

Why was this film made after the homes had already been abolished? One reason, hardly trifling, is that it was made excellently. Thematically, however, it stings.

September 3, 2003
The New Republic
Top Critic

Will make you furious and dejected, but in the end it offers an optimistic if unsettling twist.

August 28, 2003
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

A disturbing, heartbreaking and gripping portrait of religious paranoia manifested through violence.

Full Review… | April 29, 2009
Cinema Crazed

The movie is an indictment of systems that perpetuate oppression and exploitation by making the administrators believe their every cruel act is justified and by compelling complicity in victims and bystanders.

Full Review… | March 11, 2008
Observer [UK]

A damning indictment of the Catholic Church that lingers in the mind long after if ends. Angry, compassionate but never hysterical, this a true cinematic achievement.

Full Review… | March 11, 2008

This is a riveting piece of drama about a forgotten slice of history, no matter what the esteemed movie critics at the Vatican say about it.

Full Review… | September 27, 2007

Magdelene proves to be touching, potent, and incredibly human in its emotional complexity.

Full Review… | June 21, 2007
Film Scouts

A deliberately provocative film that triggers the audience's emotions in order to highlight important issues of personal freedom. Amen to that.

Full Review… | December 30, 2006
Empire Magazine

The Magdalene Sisters isn't perfect, but it sheds light on a story that needed to be told.

Full Review… | March 5, 2005
NYC Film Critic

Mullan has made a vicious and relentless film, but his outrage is well-earned.

Full Review… | January 27, 2005
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Mullan has done an expert job of creating a harrowing atmosphere without pulling punches or excluding a sharp sense of humor without slipping into bad taste.

Full Review… | May 21, 2004

Seething with moral outrage...If Mullan sins, it's that his anger gets the better of him. He sacrifices dramatic flow on the altar of polemics.

Full Review… | March 25, 2004

...a powerful, dramatic, moving, dark, and depressing experience.

Full Review… | March 18, 2004
Movie Metropolis

Its mode is that of 'a story that needs to be told,' lest we forget the marginalized lessons of history... worth seeing at least once.

Full Review… | February 15, 2004
Window to the Movies

A gut-wrenching expose of the mistreatment of young Irish women at the hands of men, the government and the Catholic Church.

Full Review… | February 2, 2004
Boston Herald

Bracing and potent, though the film's stylistic polish is sometimes tonally counterintuitive

Full Review… | January 29, 2004

A harrowing indictment of the atrocities performed in the name of organized religion.

Full Review… | January 27, 2004
Movie Boeuf

Beautifully directed and acted, Mullen's movie seems to be made with the same purpose as last year's Bloody Sunday, that of atonement and catharsis.

Full Review… | January 24, 2004

Um filme forte e relevante.

Full Review… | January 14, 2004
Cinema em Cena

Audience Reviews for The Magdalene Sisters

Writer/Director Peter Mullan follows up his surreal and blackly humourous Scottish family drama "Orphans" with this hard-hitting account of the agonising and torturous true-story of the abuse of young women from Ireland in the name of religion.
In 1960's, young women where incarcerated in a Irish convent, run by the Catholic church, for committing such 'misdeeds' as flirting with boys, becoming pregnant out of wedlock, and being raped. They are physically and psychologically abused by the head nun and her sadistic staff, who are convinced they are doing the Lord's work.
Having based his screenplay on actual Magdalene inmates' experiences, Mullan achieves an authenticity of what life was like for the young women that had to endure the injustices, humiliation and brutality of these asylums. At times it's very difficult to stomach, such is the sheer power and uncompromising telling of this harrowing story and it's full of overwhelmingly excellent performances. Geraldine McEwan as Sister Bridget, the head nun, gives one of the most absolute personifications of evil ever commited to the screen and Eileen Walsh is heart-breakingly compelling as the naive, downtrodden and religiously devoted Crispina. Her performance was worthy of so much more recognition than she recieved. Speaking of which, the entire cast and crew deserved more awards attention on it's release. Had this been directed by someone with a higher profile than Mullan and his crew, this film would have been hailed as a masterpiece. As it is, it's had to rely on word-of-mouth to find an audience but this doesn't lessen the effect or superb work by everyone involved here. Mullan's direction is flawless, the cinematography by Nigel Willoughby is stark, and almost de-saturated, adding to the overall feeling of desperation and loneliness of the women and as mentioned, the performances are perfectly pitched from a largely unknown cast. It may be hard for some to accept this behaviour went on but it's even harder to accept that these asylums lasted until 1996, when the last one was finally shut down.
A harrowing and emotionally charged drama that while based on fact, is highly subversive. If the Vatican condemns a film on it's release (which it did with this) then there's no doubt that you're in for a hard-hitting film.
Painful, provocative and important!

Mark Walker

Super Reviewer

A powerful and unflinching drama from Peter Mullan that will inevitably fascinate yet distress viewers. The film covers an interesting yet terrible period in history, its well directed, engrosses the viewers from start to finish, contains top performances from all the young cast and a fierce portrayal from Geraldine McEwan.
Essential viewing!

Shauna Robinson

Super Reviewer


Sorry, I've got to say it but American film posters are f**king awful! It's just another example of a long list of films that are marketed by idiots who know nothing about the product. Rant over. The Magdalene Sisters is a harrowing film, it's brilliant but at the same time you couldn't really claim to have enjoyed watching it unless you're psychotic or 'a bit wrong in the head'. The hardest thing to really grasp is how this ever happened and that the last correctional facility actually only closed just over 10 years ago! I'm an atheist and have anti-religious tendencies, do I respect people religious people, If I'm honest not really, chances are that if you're very religious, we aren't going to get along - that said, there are many good holy people in the world, I was bought up a catholic and was an alter boy. Our priest was one of the kindest (and funniest) guys I've ever met and it often hurts and annoys me when priests are constantly portrayed as paedophiles/sexual predators. This however, is based on true events, I'm not denying it doesn't happen, it's just a little tiring and very unfair I feel. Second rant over. The Magdalene Sisters is an excellent film, I was so impressed by Peter Mullan's direction of his earlier film, Orphans, and this just cements my views that he is just as good behind the camera as he is in front of it (His cameo is short but powerful). Eileen Walsh's performance was stand out for me but the whole cast put in strong performances, never once falling short of being utterly compelling. Highly recommended. More please Mr. Mullan!

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

A brilliantly acted, very down to Earth story depicting realistic activities within the many of the asylums in Ireland during this era. Horrific circumstances that allows women to be treated as prisoners for shaming their families, whilst repenting their sins.

The individual stories of each are tales within a tale and are a harsh reality reflected of the time, where pride is thicker than water!

Hard hitting British Drama at it?s best.

Lady D'arbanville

Super Reviewer

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