Small Things Like These
Thursday, 13 June 2024 22:33

Small Things Like These

Published in Films

Wonderfully adapted from the Claire Keegan’s novel, ‘Small Things Like These’, directed by Tim Mielant, is a strong film, emotional, radical and deep. It explores the infamous Magdalene Laundries, the institution where pregnant or “promiscuous” women could effectively be incarcerated for life.

The story is told through the kind eyes of Bill Furlong (Cillian Murphy), a dutiful father and coal wholesaler who, while delivering coal during Christmas 1985, discovers the shocking truth about the local convent. Bill’s discovery forces him to confront his past and the complicit silence of a town controlled by the local Catholic Church.

The Magdalene Movement first took hold in the mid-18th century. The campaign to put “fallen women” to work was supported by both the Catholic and Protestant churches, with women serving short terms inside the asylums with the goal of rehabilitation.

Redemption sometimes involved a variety of coercive measures, including shaven heads, institutional uniforms, bread and water diets, restricted visiting, supervised correspondence. But these barbarities are not all depicted explicitly. Everything is behind closed doors, hinted at, furtive, and it is Furlong’s imagination that opens a Pandora’s box of emotions. The facts of the present are conflated with his own past trauma, bringing out the pain and sorrow he carries, an agony that points to the collective trauma of a dysfunctional, religious society.

Mysterious, absorbing, surreal—there are moments in the movie where the characters look like ghosts: the girl Sarah, but the nuns also, and Bill’s daughters – the camera finds the quiet places and the shadows, peering in through windows and doors. Depressing and claustrophobic, dealing with a traumatic past, this is a shattering story of redemption and a truly magnificent film.