Chronicling the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy


By Ed Koch

Volume 16, Number 12 | Aug. 19–Aug. 25, 2003


“The Magdalene Sisters” (+)

This magnificent docudrama depicts a sordid situation that existed in Ireland until 1996. Adolescent girls who committed perceived anti-social acts were placed in convents by their parents where the supervising nuns put them to hard labor. This film is based on the lives of four girls in the 1960s who lived in a convent run by the Magdalene Sisters.

Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff) was raped by her cousin during a wedding reception. Rather than protect her and assail her assaulter, her parents commit her to the convent as though she were to blame.

Rose (Dorothy Duffy) has just delivered an out-of-wedlock child in the same convent. She is forced by her parents to sign adoption papers and then consigned to the convent where she is renamed Patricia by the head nun.

Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone), provocative in language and demeanor, attracts the boys. As far as we know she has not engaged in any sexual act, but her parents consign her to the convent because of her behavior.

Crispina (Eileen Walsh), who is mentally slow, also had a child out of wedlock. The child was given to her sister to raise, and Crispina was sent to live in the convent. Her fate is the worst of all.

The head nun, Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan), is cruel beyond belief, believing she is saving souls as she engages in corporal punishment. The acting of all the women is suburb, particularly that of Nora-Jane Noone.

“The Magdalene Sisters” is very intense and will tear out your heart which few pictures do.

“The Secret Lives of Dentists” (+)

This film takes a brief look into the lives of a married couple. David Hurst (Campbell Scott) and his wife Dana (Hope Davis) are both successful dentists working together in the same office. They have three young children and appear to be very happy.

One evening David unexpectedly enters the backstage area of a theater where Dana is performing in a community opera. Peering through the near closed door of her dressing room, he sees her in the arms of another man, and they are clearly not rehearsing a scene. The man’s face is concealed; hers displays sexual passion.

Dave begins to fantasize about what is happening. His patient, Slater (Denis Leary), regularly appears in his fantasies hectoring him to confront Dana. Fearing a confrontation will precipitate a separation or divorce, Dave says nothing, hoping the infidelity will die out.

Since 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce and a significant number of unhappy couples stay together for the sake of their children, this movie should appeal to a large number of people. It cannot be described as entertaining, and it is too painful to be described as a “domestic comedy” as Elvis Mitchell described it in his New York Times review, but it is interesting.

– Ed Koch