Wednesday, February 22, 2006

North Country

I didn’t want to watch this movie, because I thought there would be a lot of male bashing involved. I was under the impression it was a feminist sort of movie, which is fine, but I didn’t think it was a good movie to watch with a girlfriend. I was wrong. The movie touched me, and there is a lot to talk about afterwards.

The movie is directed by Niki Caro, a beautiful brunette born in Wellington New Zealand. She has produced Whale Rider, an exceptionally fresh and sensitive film, also focusing on the trials of a young girl. North Country is imbued with similar deft touches. It has softness, and clean lines and colorful airborne sweeps over a cold and hard landscape and its embittered people.

One review I read described the movie as predictable. I’m not sure it is. It has plenty of surprises, and it has plenty of subtlety.

I found the dynamic between Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) and her father Hank (Richard Jenkins, from Rumor Has It, Fun with Dick and Jane; he’s also Six Feet Under’s Nathaniel Jenkins) compelling, as well as her relationship with Sammy, her son.

Her best friend at the Minnesota mine is Glory (Frances McDormand, from Fargo). At one point Glory, notices Josey’s wedding ring and says: ‘Who’s the lucky?’ Josey immediately licks her finger and pulls it off.
Glory corrects herself: ‘Who’s the unlucky?’
Josey says: ‘Me I s’pose.’
And she has been. I won’t say why, but she has been through some serious stress, and somehow, the new community she’s found, quickly begin to resent her as well, and spread rumors about her. All her luck runs out, and she says as much on the edge of a skating rink at one point. Soon she is an outcast, fighting desperately for the love of those nearest and dearest to her.

The performances of Sissy Spacek as her mother Alice, Woody Harrelson (Bill White) and young Thomas Curtis (as her son Sammy) combine to generate feeling, then emotion. Even Sean Bean (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Island) is in the cast (as Gloria’s husband). There is an Oscar clip near the end of the movie, where, in the basement of his house, he offers I’ll-be-your-father-for-a-minute counsel to Josey’s son Sammy.

It is a memorable film not least because it is based on an important book by Clara Bingham. If I told you the title of the book it would really give away the impetus, and the importance, behind Josey’s struggle. Beyond all the madding crowds, the dirty work and the dirty mouths, there is a heart of gold. It’s an important message. This film has a sensitivity and a shimmer that sings clearer than a lot of American Cinema out there. It also seems as though American actors and directors are losing their touch, because we have a New Zealander directing a South African in a brilliant film, with a British actor (Bean) doing his best to sound American too.

Hopefully the attention will turn, someday soon, to the countries in the South.

This is the fourth of 4 pieces (3 approved so far for publication) I've submitted so far to

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