MOVIE REVIEW: The Secret Scripture

An elderly woman who has been institutionalized for over four decades because she killed her newborn baby has to be evaluated again to be moved from one hospital to another.  Eric Bana plays the Doctor who must get to the truth of her story before the Mental Health service transfers her like someone else’s problem.

Now this film made me angry, not because it’s bad, it’s mostly good.  It’s the subject matter, Ireland’s dirty past, not the terrorism one, well some of that, but the way the Catholic Church ruined the lives of thousands and thousands of people in this country during the twentieth century.  My personal feelings in this are spurred on stories my Dad told me about his own experiences at the hands of the Christian Brothers in Artane.  This film comes at a time where a mass grave site, or what really is a dumping site of innocent children who died while in the care of the Catholic Church was found in Ireland.  No one will get put up as responsible, no one will go to jail for this, and the circle of allowing the Catholic Church in Ireland to get away with the abuse, violence, and murder of our family members goes on and on.  Walking out of The Secret Scripture I just wanted to punch a priest or nun.

Back to talking about the film.  The film goes back and forth between Rose in her twenties and Rose as an elderly woman.  Rooney Mara plays young Rose and has this powerful innocence with her that just fits in to the world.  Jack Reynor plays the young man heading off to the War who Rose falls for, Reynor is a good actor but here he is a paper-thin character with little to nothing to do.  Theo James plays the Parish priest that becomes infatuated with Rose and brings about her confinement into the care of the Nuns.  Aidan Turner is there for whatever reason I can’t fathom right now.  Fast forwarding to forty odd years later and Eric Bana is doing a passable accent as the Irish Doctor that wants to get to the truth of Rose’s story.

For me the stand out performance though is Vanessa Redgrave as older Rose, at the point we meet the elder Rose she’s broken, living in her own dream world, believing that she never killed the child, and refusing to leave the hospital that she has called home for all those years.  Redgrave has this frail power behind her that just melts your heart and the performance is such that no matter what she has done in the past you would care for her.

Imagine Brooklyn without the hope and light-hearted nature, mix in gloom of Angela’s Ashes, and the powerful performances from Redgrave and Mara.  I don’t know if you are going to like this film, there are parts which you have to take that huge leap of faith with, like Reynor’s character being shot down over the cottage where Mara is living.  These are too big steps for the audience to take with the story, and it leaves you slightly distracted through the parts that actually work.  If you’re in a dark place in your life this film isn’t going to help, but if you want to know some more about the Irish history and how the Catholic Church treated the citizens of this nation then it’s worth a watch.

Just a tip, after I watched this I went back home and watched something really light and funny, if I didn’t I’d probably be roaming the streets looking for priests and nuns.

Director: Jim Sheridan
Writers: Sebastian Barry, Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson
Stars: Rooney Mara, Theo James, Aidan Turner

See full cast & crew


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