North Country (2005)

Rated R. Our ratings: V- ; L- ; S/N .

Running time: 2 hours 3 min. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.
Psalm 123:3-4 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ John 8:31-32

North Country

Following in the footsteps of those who made Silkwood and Norma Rae, director Niki Caro and screenwriter Michael Seitzman have created a fictionalized account of a brave woman seeking social justice on behalf herself and other beleaguered women toiling at a vast iron mine in northern Minnesota. The book Class Action: The Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler inspired their fictionalized film. Charlize Theron again shows us what a consummate actress she is in the role of Josey Aimes, an abused wife who returns to her parents’ home with her two young children after one beating too many.

We get a taste of the patriarchal system she will soon be up against when her father Hank Aimes (Richard Jenkins) greets her with the assumption that her husband’s abuse must have been justified by her (supposed) infidelities. Otherwise, why would he beat hwer? When her best friend Glory (Frances McDormand) suggests that she could make six times as much working in the mine as she does as a hairdresser, Josie goes and applies. Her father, who works at the mine, is not happy about this, nor is her mother Alice (Sissy Spacek), though her opposition is far more low-keyed than her husband’s. The man who orients Josey does not try to hide his feelings, observing, “It involves lifting, driving, and all sorts of other things a woman shouldn’t be doing, if you ask me. But the Supreme Court doesn’t agree.” Josey soon becomes the butt of leering taunts and cruel practical jokes from her male coworkers. They all believe that miner’s work is suitable only for men, and besides, during a time when jobs are scarce, the women are taking jobs away from men.

Josey talks with her female coworkers, but they tell her that she will have to put up with the treatment. This is made impossible by her supervisor, Bobby (Jeremy Renner), once her high school sweetheart and now out to rape her if he can. He has aided and abetted the widely circulated story that Josey while a high school student was not the victim of sexual advances by a teacher, but the instigator. Some of the women even become hostile when Josey continues to complain. She appeals to her supervisor, and then when he brushes off her complaints, she appeals to the company president for relief. He and members of his board meet with her, but before she can state her case, he tells her that he will solve her problem. Her assumption of redress is short-lived, however, by his announcement that he is terminating her.

Josey will not give up, even though the lawyer she consults offers little hope that a law suite against the company could be won. Josey tries to get Bill White (Woody Harrelson), an eastern lawyer who has given up the practice and returned to his Minnesota roots, but he refuses at first to listen to Josey, telling her that she is up against overwhelming opposition. She would need to convince several of the women who still work at the mine to join her in order for a court to accept a class action suit. This is even more difficult, most of them fearful not only for their own safety, but also worried that a suit will force the closure of the mine, throwing everyone out of work. The climax comes at the union meeting hall where Josie faces a storm of verbal abuse, so loud and vociferous that she cannot be heard. How her voice does become heard is as great a cinematic moment as when Norma Rae climbed atop a lunchroom table at the cotton mill and held aloft a sign that proclaimed UNION.

The director of Whale Rider, a film also about female resistance to male oppression, has given us a strong social justice film, one that reminds us that justice comes only when someone stands up and is willing to carry a cross. Unfortunately, the public has not taken to this disturbing and challenging film, so if it is tsill playing in your community. Do not put off seeing it. (After just a couple of weeks playing in Cincinnati theaters, it has left.) Thank goodness for DVD. Be sure to watch for it.

For Reflection/Discussion

1) The lawsuit started in 1989, and was settled in 1991. How have matters improved for women in the workplace since then? How have some things remained the same? Do you know of situations where it is still difficult for women working outside the home?

2) How are Josey’s female coworkers aiding and abetting their enslavement? Compare this to the attitude of many Southern African Americans who opposed civil rights workers afraid of “rocking the boat”?

3) How does Josey’s reputation in the community suffer because she left her husband? And by the attitude that she must be defective if she cannot find a man to “take care of her”?

4) How does her teenage son contribute to her woes? Compare this to the young son hostile to his mother’s job in Erin Brockovich.

5) Several times we see on television Anita Hill testifying. What parallels do you see between the two women’s situations?

6) Although Josey might not be a churchgoer, how could the prayer of the Psalmist’s be hers as well? How is her fight for justice a continuing “in the word” of Jesus? In what sense did her “truth” make her, and her female corkers, free?

7) What do you think the church can do to aid women to gain equal rights?

North Country Rated R. Our ratings: V- ; L- ; S/N . Running time: 2 hours 3 min.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.

Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

Psalm 123:3-4

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ John 8:31-32

Following in the footsteps of those who made Silkwood and Norma Rae, director Niki Caro and screenwriter Michael Seitzman have created a fictionalized account of a brave woman seeking social justice on behalf herself and other beleaguered women toiling at a vast iron mine in northern Minnesota. The book Class Action: The Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler inspired their fictionalized film. Charlize Theron again shows us what a consummate actress she is in the role of Josey Aimes, an abused wife who returns to her parents’ home with her two young children after one beating too many.

We get a taste of the patriarchal system she will soon be up against when her father Hank Aimes (Richard Jenkins) greets her with the assumption that her husband’s abuse must have been justified by her (supposed) infidelities. Otherwise, why would he beat hwer? When her best friend Glory (Frances McDormand) suggests that she could make six times as much working in the mine as she does as a hairdresser, Josie goes and applies. Her father, who works at the mine, is not happy about this, nor is her mother Alice (Sissy Spacek), though her opposition is far more low-keyed than her husband’s. The man who orients Josey does not try to hide his feelings, observing, “It involves lifting, driving, and all sorts of other things a woman shouldn’t be doing, if you ask me. But the Supreme Court doesn’t agree.” Josey soon becomes the butt of leering taunts and cruel practical jokes from her male coworkers. They all believe that miner’s work is suitable only for men, and besides, during a time when jobs are scarce, the women are taking jobs away from men.

Josey talks with her female coworkers, but they tell her that she will have to put up with the treatment. This is made impossible by her supervisor, Bobby (Jeremy Renner), once her high school sweetheart and now out to rape her if he can. He has aided and abetted the widely circulated story that Josey while a high school student was not the victim of sexual advances by a teacher, but the instigator. Some of the women even become hostile when Josey continues to complain. She appeals to her supervisor, and then when he brushes off her complaints, she appeals to the company president for relief. He and members of his board meet with her, but before she can state her case, he tells her that he will solve her problem. Her assumption of redress is short-lived, however, by his announcement that he is terminating her.

Josey will not give up, even though the lawyer she consults offers little hope that a law suite against the company could be won. Josey tries to get Bill White (Woody Harrelson), an eastern lawyer who has given up the practice and returned to his Minnesota roots, but he refuses at first to listen to Josey, telling her that she is up against overwhelming opposition. She would need to convince several of the women who still work at the mine to join her in order for a court to accept a class action suit. This is even more difficult, most of them fearful not only for their own safety, but also worried that a suit will force the closure of the mine, throwing everyone out of work. The climax comes at the union meeting hall where Josie faces a storm of verbal abuse, so loud and vociferous that she cannot be heard. How her voice does become heard is as great a cinematic moment as when Norma Rae climbed atop a lunchroom table at the cotton mill and held aloft a sign that proclaimed UNION.

The director of Whale Rider, a film also about female resistance to male oppression, has given us a strong social justice film, one that reminds us that justice comes only when someone stands up and is willing to carry a cross. Unfortunately, the public has not taken to this disturbing and challenging film, so if it is tsill playing in your community. Do not put off seeing it. (After just a couple of weeks playing in Cincinnati theaters, it has left.) Thank goodness for DVD. Be sure to watch for it.

For Reflection/Discussion

1) The lawsuit started in 1989, and was settled in 1991. How have matters improved for women in the workplace since then? How have some things remained the same? Do you know of situations where it is still difficult for women working outside the home?

2) How are Josey’s female coworkers aiding and abetting their enslavement? Compare this to the attitude of many Southern African Americans who opposed civil rights workers afraid of “rocking the boat”?

3) How does Josey’s reputation in the community suffer because she left her husband? And by the attitude that she must be defective if she cannot find a man to “take care of her”?

4) How does her teenage son contribute to her woes? Compare this to the young son hostile to his mother’s job in Erin Brockovich.

5) Several times we see on television Anita Hill testifying. What parallels do you see between the two women’s situations?

6) Although Josey might not be a churchgoer, how could the prayer of the Psalmist’s be hers as well? How is her fight for justice a continuing “in the word” of Jesus? In what sense did her “truth” make her, and her female corkers, free?

7) What do you think the church can do to aid women to gain equal rights?