9 June 2008 | Chrysanthepop
'What are you supposed to do when the ones with all the power are hurting those with none?'
I thought this would be one of those issue-based legal drama movies about sexual harassment where the main character is harassed a couple of times and then she eventually fights back. I was apprehensive about buying it. I mean I wanted to see it but whether it was worth buying was another thing. After checking, I decided to gamble. I bought the DVD and watched it and discovered that 'North Country' is about much more than sexual harassment. As the film progresses towards the end, we are addressed more important themes such as the consequence of rape on the relationship between a mother and child and how her silence is used as a weapon against her. However, while these issues are interestingly dealt with and fit the story they slightly deviate from the main theme of sexual harassment.
Niki Caro does a fine job in directing. Her intentions are sincere. Perhaps the script could have been a little tighter and the courtroom sequences could have been better handled as they are a little too dramatic and unrealistic, especially the judge letting White to argue his case that way. In addition to that, the case became more about Josey's sex life rather than the actual harassment and terrorizing in the workplace. Even though this provides a twist in the story and explains a lot of Josie's situation, it takes away from the main theme. Also most of the male characters have been caricatured. I understand the film is about Josey which may be the reason why these characters weren't given much attention but even Josey's father is portrayed as a misogynist and all of a sudden he is shown to have a change of heart. It would have liked to see this characters inner conflict as he plays a crucial role in Josey's life.
In the technical front, the cinematography is smooth and gives us some spectacular glimpse of the snowy landscape and the coal mines. The sound effect and country-feel soundtrack are quite good too.
Charlize Theron deserves all the recognition she got for giving a strong, confidant and heartfelt performance as the brave hard-working and headstrong Josey Aimes. She breathes fire into her role and, along with Frances McDormand, she's the heart of the film. McDormand performs naturally and her tragic character provides some great comic relief. She has some witty one-liners that bring a smile. While most of the guys are portrayed as nasty sleazy men, Sean Bean's Kyle is the complete opposite. Nonetheless, the actor does a fine job (quite a deviation from what the type of roles he's more famous for). Harrelson's Bill White suffers from poor characterization. His character is a bit too sketchy. Harrelson tries the best with what he's got and turns in a decent enough performance. Richard Jenkins too suffers from poor writing. Sissy Spacek has a tiny role but she has a subtle dignified presence and her character contributes to one of the major turning points of the story. Rusty Schwimmer and Michelle Monaghan are adequate.
'North Country' isn't an easy film to watch because of the explicit scenes of sexual harassment and the haunting rape scene but it is a relevant film. Not only is it about women's rights, it's about everyone's right to live a life with dignity, to work with dignity. It's about standing up against injustice rather than turning a blind eye. It's about protecting your loved ones and fighting for what you believed in. Though 'North Country' isn't without its share of flaws (it is a little preachy and sometimes too dramatic), it brings forth some important themes well enough and with the support of good direction and strong performances, it's worth watching.