26 April 2014 | Lowbacca1977
A global look at humanity at its best, and some of its worst
While this is all sourced as being based on a true story, I almost find that hard to accept, simply because of the sheer number of hurdles involved, on top of the appropriate naming of the titular character, Christina Noble.
The film straddles two different arcs; on one hand is the early life of Christina, and all the hardships she faced, and it's incredibly bleak. It makes it all the more impressive to me with how bright and energetic a character Christina is by both actresses that play her as a child and a young woman, and it does feel like the same character the entire way. Christina's Irish upbringing also is somewhat familiar cinematically now as the state of Ireland's treatment of children was showcased recently in another true story, Philomena.
While her early life is simply, well, tragic, the other arc is of much more mixed tone, as she travels to Vietnam after her kids have grown up, now played by Deirdre O'Kane, and she does a great job as Christina, from the humour and tenderness to the strength and determination. She takes the role very naturally, and her portrayal of Christina is very warm, and I think part of this may be O'Kane's involvement with Christina Noble's charity beforehand, so I think her performance was strengthened by her personal investment. As she finds a calling helping the homeless children of Vietnam, and tries to figure out how to help, she serves as this great and uplifting protagonist, all the more impressive given that this is, again, actually a true story and really did happen, to at least some extent.
In Vietnam, the story isn't simply carried by O'Kane, but has a great set of supporting roles. Right off the bat, the employee at the hotel front desk that calls himself "Mr. Front Desk" or some such thing has a great role as this begrudgingly helpful curmudgeon, and almost all his lines were great, both in writing, and in performance (and I'm somewhat annoyed that I don't remember a name ever being used for him for me to give the actor proper due). The children in the film are great, and a few of them even have more involved roles, and they actually have all been, or still are, helped by Christina Noble's charity and that makes me all the more impressed by their involvement as well.
It would be very easy of me to criticise the overly dramatic nature of this film and it's lack of believability, but what's so impressive is that I don't think it actually did take that many liberties to make it the story it is, and as raw as the film is, it's genuine. It does make the film much more powerful, and the points it makes about being poor being a constant experience anywhere is a very salient one, and the way Christina steps up the challenges in Vietnam is extremely compelling. There's so many social elements on both small and large scales that this film touches upon, and that's quite impressive.
There's something I find very moving about a film with such a vibrant person as Christina Noble (as depicted, but apparently fairly accurate) that faces so many challenges with that strength.