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‘North Country’ Film Review: Woman against the system

“North Country” is a compelling drama set in a 1989 American mining community where chauvinistic values are common in the workplace.

The story blatantly examines the social injustice suffered by women. This film has a powerful character portrait painting some of the most shocking and nerve-wracking landscapes of sexual harassment and how one woman, often discriminated by her fellow workers, stands up for herself and her fellow women in the mining company.

Director Niki Caro and screenwriter Michael Seitzman craft a familiar tale with an exceptionally emotional form. After Caro’s success in “Whale Rider,” she now delivers such a poignant tale that doesn’t use overly melodramatic exposition and musical score. She knows how to play around the heart and go directly to the film’s pressure points to convey its message. In simple ways, this motion-picture drama turns out as an emotionally potent and resonant story made for more mature audiences amidst the fantasy and horror flicks, remakes, adaptations, sequels, and prequels conquering movie theaters.

In terms of research, there a few lapses in the mining scenes, which turn out not that convincing for the general audience, mainly due to the seemingly lack of characters moving like mining experts. Many scenes simply show the very materials and equipment used for mining operations without the characters rightfully using them like pros.

Charlize Theron gives an emotionally modulated performance as Josie Aimes. It is pretty impressive to see a very realistic portrait of the rural trash look from the “de-glamourized” Theron compared to the frustrating glamour of most actresses playing roles that supposedly need more realistic dirt than alluring make-up. The prosthetics delivers well. From Theron’s convincingly blood-shot eyes to her bruises and cracked French manicure, the actress anchors the film with her impassioned role as a single mom working in a mining company. As the single-handed Josie, she effectively carries herself as the story’s working class heroine.

The dynamic performances of the supporting roles also contribute much to this dramatic piece’s emotional glory. The characters are well-provided, convincing, and touching.

The speaking lines are not purely crafted in monologues; yet, the strong ones, even the short, direct-to-the-point conversations and the courtroom argumentations requiring some dramatic highlights, hit right to the bones.

The sexual harassment issue in the story is presented with simplicity and direction. Although it tackles a very serious subject matter and the ending is very predictable, it leaves a significantly emotional mark from its clear-voiced presentation. Moreover, it doesn’t try anything new and big-bang impressive in cinematic terms. Its short scenes and sequences clearly focus on the emotional thread of the issue being tackled without dependence on any technical move as using special effects, non-realist treatment, nor music.

This women-against-the-system film conveys a moralist message. It shows a simplistic account of a hard-won battle with courtroom cliches carefully bent for the story’s end. Yet, its sensitivity makes its minimalist approach worth the tears from the affected audience. Its coherent script doesn’t aim to persuade with a gun pointed to the head, but it clearly shows what is happening to the characters, then it lets the audience weave their own judgments in their plight.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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