North Country is a powerful and 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 compelling character portrait painting some of the most shocking and nerve-wracking landscapes of sexual harrassment and how a woman, often discriminated by her fellow workers, stands up for herself and her fellow women in the mining company.
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Director Niki Caro and screenwriter Michael Seitzman have crafted a familiar and often used story into an exceptionally emotional form. After Caro`s success in Whale Rider, she now delivers a poignant story without much overly melodramatic exposition and overemotional musical score. She knows how to play around the heart and go direct to the pressure points of the film to convey its message and release its power. In simple ways, it is an emotionally potent and resonant film made for more matured audiences amidst the fantasy and horror movies, remakes, adaptations, sequels and prequels conquering our movie theaters.
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 make-up of most actresses playing roles that need some dirt on their faces. The prosthetics is very good as well. From her convincingly blood shot eyes to her bruises to her cracked French manicure, she anchors the film with her impassioned role as a single mom working within the dirt of a mining company. As the single-handed Josie, she carries herself as the working class heroine.
The dynamic performances of the supporting characters contribute to the emotional glory of the film. The characters are well-provided, convincing, and touching.
This film has a few lapses. And one major weakness I have seen in the film is that it seems like the research and creative team have not collaborated well to show a clear glimpse of what mining work really entails. Being set in a mine workers’ place with most of the characters supposedly being experts in mining activities, what are seen in the film are only the very materials and equipment used for mining operations and nothing more for the audience to clearly understand the basic things relating to the characters` mining work. It should not be too detailed as it is not the focus of the story but it still should come in well so the audience can relate better to the characters and the story as a whole.
The sexual harassment issue is presented with simplicity and direction. And though 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 or music.
The dialogues are not purely crafted in monologues; and yet, the strong lines, whether in short, direct to the point words or in courtroom argumentations requiring some dramatic highlights, hit right to the bones. And with the kind of ending it has, though it gives redemption to the story, at some point, I would say that, contrary to most films made, this one tries to compromise some of its cinematic license to touch the heart and send its message (a clear example of this is how the film literally ends). And with this, the film`s vision presents the issue with sincerity in an effective audio-visual medium and not just to make “art” from it.
Women-against-the-system films as this can make a good new genre to sprout and spread. This film, along with the likes of Erin Brockovich, falls under a subgenre of feminist films that can really take fast heartbeats.
The weather maybe chilling in this film, but the engrossing story tackled here makes a rush of blood that may cause fiery tension to the unjust treatment and discrimination of women. This film may show just a simplistic account of a hard-won battle with courtroom cliches carefully bent for the story`s end, but its sensitivity makes its minimalist approach worth the tears from the affected audience. It may even infuriate the viewers of any gender.
As reported, a number of scenes in the film have been shot in studio. And with the minimal art requirements needed for the story, this proves that producing a low budget but earnest, honest and well-crafted film can be successful in its very vision and actual venture.
The story doesn’t aim to persuade with a gun pointed to the head, but it shows what is happening and lets the audience weave their own judgments. The story and script have coherence as seen in the plots and subplots, the characterization and backgrounds, the point-blank realistic exposition and subtexts, the melodramatic side, and cinematic add-ups. This film has a vision. It conveys a moralist message. If you’re in the mood for some serious and meaningful film to watch, this one is a good choice.