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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.34%
Worth A Look: 43.1%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

7 reviews, 16 user ratings

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North Country
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by Julie Wohlberg

"Most Hollywood starlets make their names with sex appeal. Not this one."
4 stars

There's something about a film who's opening credits read "Based on a true story." Perhaps it gives the film a sense of importance, of truth or "pay attention." "North Country" is no different.

Josie (Charlize Theron), a young mother of two, leaves an abusive husband and her only semblance of a life in rural Minnesota to return to her parents and a cold, abrasive relationship that audiences can only imagine is based on years of tension. Immediately, we get a sense of a woman’s role in her hometown when Josie enters her parents’ home, beaten and bloody.

“He caught you with another man? That’s why he laid hands on you?” her father asks coolly, surveying her face as a doctor would examine a stranger’s. “You can ask me that question?” she replies. Apparently, he isn’t the only one who can. Less than five minutes into the film, audiences already have their first taste of the man’s world that is Josie’s small Midwest town, where old neighbors and kin stare her down at functions and church for having left her husband, ignoring her battered face and reminding her, “He is your husband.”

“To be a young woman and see that this story happened less than seven years ago,” exclaimed Theron before a screening of “North Country,” “and that it happened right here in the United States, that is appalling.”

Trying to make a life for her small family, Josie takes a job at a beauty salon, where she meets up with old friend Glory (Frances McDormand), a union rep at the local mine who tells Josie that she can make six times her current salary working in the mine. Despite the resistance she meets from family and friends, she takes a job in a mine where 29 out of every 30 miners are men – men feeling the strains of layoffs and hard economic times who are none too happy about women taking “their jobs” away from them.

Young, attractive and full of attitude, Josie becomes an immediate target for lust and violence in the mines, being groped, propositioned, and attacked on an almost daily basis by the men whom she calls co-workers, under the cool stare of her own father, who has worked the mines for decades. Attempts to get help from supervisors turn into threats on her job and increased violence from the male miners, not only against her, but against the small group of females that she has gained as a support system. Inspired by the Anita Hill sexual harassment case and desperate for help, Josie finally decides to break the code of silent abuse in the mines and sue the workers, managers, and mine owners for sexual harassment.

Charlize Theron, who recently walked away with an Oscar for her performance in “Monster,” delivers again in “North Country,” bringing the fictitious character of Josie to life in a compelling, heart-wrenching way. While Theron admits that the actual character of Josie is fictitious, her story is roughly based on the real life of Lois Jenson, who in the late 1980s sued the Eveleth Mines for sexual harassment.

Director Niki Caro, who garnered critical acclaim for her film “Whale Rider,” has once again captured the pulse of a culture, of a quiet and small society not open to outsiders, using the advantages of the barren Minnesota landscape to combine breath-taking cold, harsh scenery shots with warm, darkly-lit and intensely intimate shots to bring her characters to life and demonstrate the harsh realities of living in such a desolate place.

Most important to note, for those who hesitate to watch a movie that seems in all ways to be appropriate for Lifetime as a man-bashing flick, this is not what “North Country” is about. For every male miner involved in the assaulting of women there is a male who stepped forward and said, “Hey, that’s enough!” Likewise, for every woman assaulted there are handfuls of others who are guilty of standing quietly by, allowing the violence to continue. And while the film deals largely with the issue of a woman’s role in society, particularly in the small towns along Minnesota’s Iron Range, it’s not the kind of flick that can be dismissed lightly as a tissue film of WE! or Oxygen nightly feature.

Expect to see Theron and Caro making yet another run for Oscar this year.

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originally posted: 11/05/05 11:51:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2005 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2005 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/03/10 MP Bartley Powerful in parts, but shamelessly and grubbily obvious. 3 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting storyline. 4 stars
4/25/07 nancie belianne i enjoyed this film dispite some disturbing scenes. 3 stars
12/13/06 galaxy its a nice movie... 4 stars
11/07/06 Alexis Brilliant acting, kudos to Frances McDormand, fairly watered down for a 'true story' 4 stars
6/30/06 Phil M. Aficionado Stick to the book or make a documentary. Why waste good acting this kind of thing? 3 stars
2/23/06 ES Sad, didn't buy Woody as the lawyer but a worth while watch 4 stars
12/18/05 ownerofdajoint Treron is great as the victim of our corporate slavemasters total domination 5 stars
11/07/05 Rocha Ana This movie made me feel mad. 4 stars
11/07/05 Nancy Stanina Contrary to the reviews views, these things did happen and are still happening some places 5 stars
10/31/05 Jeff Unbelievable film, Inspiring, One of the best ever 5 stars
10/27/05 Michael Kondo A very good and moving movie, a must see 5 stars
10/23/05 baseball-nut This is a very good flick ... a must buy movie if you liked Norma Rae! 5 stars
9/29/05 E. Northam An accurate & ugly indictment of the plight of sexually harrassed women at a mining site. 4 stars
9/14/05 Matt Parker A Hollywood picture with the naturalistic, emotional signature of Niki Caro... 5 stars
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  21-Oct-2005 (R)
  DVD: 21-Feb-2006

  03-Feb-2006 (15)

  02-Feb-2006 (MA)

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