November 09, 2009

North Country

By Hilary Rowe *

I was eager to see director Niki Caro's new film because her previous feature, Whale Rider (2003), struck me as a quiet yet profound work. The harsh setting of North Country is a far cry from the intimate Maori village of the earlier film, but Caro brings her powerfully human style of filmmaking to this story, which is simultaneously tragic and encouraging.

Josie Aimes, a young mother of two, decides to leave her abusive husband, eventually supporting her family working at a local mine. The job pays well, but Josie and the other women at the mine face daily harassment and even abuse at the hands of many of their male coworkers and superiors.

Set in 1989, the film tells of Josie's fight for the safety and dignity of these women at a time when few policies were in place to protect them against sexual harassment. Her personal struggle and legal battle are nothing short of heroic; for most of the film, Josie stands alone against the powerful men who run the mining company. One of the film's most important messages is the need to fight for truth, justice, and human dignity, even when the cost is high and the outcome uncertain.

North Country also impressed me with the subtle ways it seemed to point out the objectification of women in culture that perpetuates harassment and sexual violence; a high school boy grabs Josie inappropriately, her manager displays near-pornographic images in his office, and other noticeable instances. I must also commend this film for its portrayal of a mother's heroic choice to choose life for her child after a devastating rape, a choice that seems to have brought her hope in the midst of her pain.

This rape, however, is the primary reason I can only recommend this film to very mature audiences. While containing no nudity, its images are haunting; the film absolutely condemns this type of violence, but its disturbing nature is nonetheless difficult to take. For those adults who choose to brave the brutal moments of North Country, this movie's beauty and power will not disappoint.

Hilary Rowe received her B.A. in Film Studies and English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2005.  Since then she has worked in campus ministry for FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.  She currently serves as FOCUS Team Director at the University of Colorado.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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