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Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars good, if serious, film, 15 April 2014
This review is from: North Country [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This film was not commercially successful when released but that may be the public's fault as it is a good, if serious, film. It begins a little low-key, but gradually builds up interest.

It lasts more than 2 hours long which may have been a drawback in the cinema but not at home on DVD or Blu-Ray when one can take a break or split it over a couple of days. There is also a documentary feature worth viewing.

It is based on true events but cannot portray more than a small part of a story that in real life took more than a decade to resolve.

`North Country' is set in the 1970s in northern Minnesota, North to most Americans [presumably not to Canadians]. In the film it seemsto have snow several months of the year and ice hockey is the main sport. However, North Country does not, as some films like this would do, make the mistake of making everything on the screen a dull and sombre white, grey, black or brown. There is colour too.

The title comes from the Bob Dylan/Johnny Cash song 'Girl of the North Country', which is for some reason only heard indistinctly in the background at one point performed by someone else, while another less interesting Dylan song is featured more prominently.

The film is about women who take what had been men's jobs in a taconite (iron ore) mine, because many have dependents to feed and the pay is several times better than other jobs open to them like waitressing. However, they encounter cruel hostility and even violence from some of the male miners, and derision when they complain to management.

Charlize Theron, great film actress, plays a single mother who finally dares to challenge the company in the courts.

Yes, I know some of you will be thinking "Isn't she too glamorous to be believable playing a single mother making ends meet working in an iron ore mine?" Others will be thinking "Doesn't a film about sexual harassment in an iron ore mine sound like worthy but dull leftie, feminist stuff?' Fortunately, you need not worry on either account.

Of course Charlize T dresses down for the role from how she looks when attending the Oscars (she was nominated for a `Best Actress' Oscar for this film). Unless determined to be pernickety you will have no problem accepting her in the role.

As for the film sounding liberal and feminist, don't be put off by that either. I am so right-wing I am almost a vampire, but even I like this film! It is done so well, although I do have to say that while there are flashes of humour, it is quite serious.

Charlize Theron has interspersed her lighter and probably more commercial films with a number of thoughtful and less commercial, but still good, films like this one, and alsoIn The Valley Of Elah [DVD] [2008], The Burning Plain [DVD]and Young Adult [DVD]. If you have seen any of those, whether you liked them may be a guide to whether you will like `North Country' (or vice versa).

Amber Heard is also good in a smaller role playing the same character as a teenaged schoolgirl.

Frances McDormand was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Glory, another woman working in the mine, who contracts a wasting disease. In a striking moment near the end of the film, no longer able to speak, she signals to her husband to read out her statement beginning "My name is Glory Dodge and I am not f*ck*ng dead yet. I stand with..."

I also liked Michelle Monaghan as Sherry, the youngest of the women.

Whether, if you want to be pedantic, the courtroom scenes towards the end of the film are realistically plausible I do not know (in British courts they would not be). However, this is fiction based on truth, not a documentary, and as fiction based on truth they are effective.

That is my recommendation of the film.

As for the main issue it raises, unless you are very prejudiced you will have to admit that it is a good thing the women eventually won their case and that the kind of behaviour portrayed here is no longer widely accepted.

Having said that, this case unfortunately also helped bring about the 'over the top' American harassment litigation culture, causing many American employers to make it a sacking offence to have a romance with a colleague for fear of law suits, and male Professors not dare email female students about their essays after 7 pm. However, I would not like to go back to how things were before the case portrayed in this film.)
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Location: Buckinghamshire, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,938