With all of the shady priests being exposed in the news lately, it was only a matter of time before people started peering into nuns' habits, too. Though some cinematic liberties were taken, Peter Mullan's picture tells the true story thousands of "fallen" Irish women into forced servitude at the so-called Magdalene asylums run by the Sisters of Mercy.
Many of these unfortunates (unwed mothers and rape victims among them), however, were given no mercy and worked in the brutal laundries where Mullan centers this film. The individual stories told in the film resonate less than the oppressive environment evoked, which is depicted in painstaking, and painful, detail. Set in the early 1960s, the film's immediacy may have something to do with the fact that the last Magdalene asylum closed just seven years ago.