North Country My Reviews 31 JUL 2007

North CountryLast night saw Chantelle and I hunkering down to watch North Country, a movie that Chantelle has seen before, thought it was quite good, and insisted that I watch it with her. I didnt complain too much because she fed me the most delicious soup I’ve ever eaten (it had pieces of ham or bacon or something meaty in it for goodness sake!), coupled with pancakes soaked in syrupy cinnamon sugar.

North Country was released in 2005 and is one of South African born Charlize Therons big budget movies in which she plays the role Josey Aimes, an abused wife who leaves her husband behind, taking her two children with her as she takes up a job at the local iron mine in order to survive. Shes had a problem past and is currently all but disowned by her father, and it doesnt help that shes joining the mine where hes been working at all the years.

The problem arises from the fact that mining has always been seen as a mans occupation, and it is only recently that the mine was forced to open its doors to allow women workers as well. The sexist nature of society in that part of the country comes to the fore as the women miners are forced deal with a flood of insults, innuendo, vulgar remarks and pranks that tread – and often push – the line between locker-room humour and out-and-out harassment.

To keep their jobs safe, the women have little choice but to suck it up and stand tough that is until things go just a little too far. Standing alone, Josey decides to find help and starts on her quest to file a class action sexual harassment lawsuit against the mine, a first for the American legal system.

North Country is based on the landmark Jenson vs. Eveleth Mines case from 1984 as well as the book, Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law, by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler.

The story is a story worth telling, it is a topic faced by women every single day, even to this day. Sexual harassment plagues everyone and it is nice to see Hollywood make a nice big blockbuster highlighting it just a little bit. When the movie was first released, people absolutely loved it and there was quite a bit of Oscar buzz surrounding it something to be honest that I simply don’t understand.

Yes the story is good and compelling, but I feel that the director failed miserably pulling out the full potential of this story. The scenes are all technically and well shot, but as far as I’m concerned, the director fails at drawing any direct empathy from the viewer. Not enough emotion gets transferred from the characters to the viewer, something I almost entirely blame on shot selection.

That said, the movie is still a solid watch, but this lack of involvement stops it from being an engrossing watch. It only really picks up towards the end, and by that time youve already slowly plodded through two hours of the same subject matter.

The actors however must all be commended on a stellar performance, with everyone really showing their ability and class. Charlize Theron is brilliant as always, and you can easily see just why she is a Hollywood A-list performer. Its kind of nice to see Woody Harrelson again as well, even if he isnt hitting or shooting someone for a change.

Based around 1989, the visuals and props convey the period well, with a slightly muted colour palette being preferred for most of the film, probably to emphasize the age and perhaps also the mining environment. The musical score for the movie is solid and provides the necessary emotional support for the scenes. Its just a pity that the camera work doesnt seem to do the same.

Its not that I didnt enjoy the movie; it just really didnt grab me all that much. True, this is a story that women relate to, not men so maybe I am being a little harsh here. Its a solid movie that stretches over 2 hours and unfortunately due to the pacing feels like it stretches over 3. Watch it if you are looking for a solid drama flick (and hope there arent any hardcore feminists watching it with you the discussions might just go on for hours).

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.