out of Five
Running time: 126
Enjoyable drama that’s impressively shot and features a strong cast but is ultimately hampered by a fatal weakness for courtroom clichés.
What’s it all about?
Charlize Theron stars as Josey, a single mother who leaves her abusive husband and heads home to northern Minnesota. Her friend Glory (Frances McDormand) works in the local iron mine and convinces Josey to get a job there too, alongside a handful of other women in an otherwise all-male environment.
However, Josey is unprepared for the constant harassment that she and the other female miners receive from their male coworkers on a daily basis. And when she meets local lawyer Bill (Woody Harrelson) she decides to take legal action against her employers.
North Country is loosely based on the true story of the first sexual harassment class-action lawsuit, though it’s probably safe to assume that the writers have taken a few dramatic liberties with the characters. At any rate, it’s shocking to realise that this sort of thing was still going on as late as 1989 and the film’s biggest success lies in inducing a sense of moral outrage in its audience.
Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) makes the most of the stark Minnesota landscapes, which add a distinct air of authenticity to the film. She also gets terrific performances from her cast, particularly from Theron and McDormand, both of whom are likely candidates for Oscar nominations come February.
The first half of the film is extremely good but towards the end Caro seems intent on working her way through The Big Book Of Courtroom Clichés. They come so thick and fast that it’s like watching a comedy. Similarly, a crucial character reversal is both sudden and unconvincing.
Despite a distinctly wobbly final act, this remains an enjoyable film that’s worth seeing for its performances.
North Country (15)