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Monday, October 24, 2005

North Country

—1. Overview (multimedia)
—2. Overview Basic (dial up speed)
—3. Reviews and Blogs
—4. Cast and Crew
—5. Photo Pages
—6. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—7. Posters (
Charlize Theron)
—8. Production Notes (pdf)
—9. Spiritual Connections


enlargeI hadn’t really planned on seeing this movie, but for some reason I just felt drawn to it today. It was this or Doom, and on the surface I seemed to be more in the mood for Doom but decided instead to see North Country, and excuse the expression, but boy am I glad I did.

There are some movies that a reviewer will see and can’t help but editorialize about, for me North Country is one of those movies. Not since Sally Fields in Norma Rae have we seen such a powerful female character in film. Charlize Theron is absolutely brilliant as Josey Aimes and she takes the viewer by the throat and throws them down. We get kicked and punched in the gut with the reality of abuse that many women go through on a day to day basis.

Here is part of my editorial; I didn’t grow up in the nicest of homes. For the most part, when my mother or my sister and I weren’t getting abused by the various people in our lives we realized the difficulty of our environment. We grew up poor, with not many luxuries. I have come to realize, as I have gotten older, that my mother became in many ways, a victim of her environment. I saw this in the life of the character Josey Aimes played by Theron. A young female, going through unmentionable difficulties growing up only to be haunted for the rest of her life with her lack of hope, opportunity, and abilities to raise a child. It is after taking all that she can take with those difficulties and those around her, especially her co-workers, that she finally decides to stand up for herself, and her children. She loves them, but doesn’t always know how to show that love to them.

NORTH COUNTRYAlong the way, we see the misunderstandings that exist between a father and daughter, a husband and wife, a mother and child. Misunderstandings wrapped around times like Christmas where we see the ultimate deliverer of peace celebrated, in a world filled with heartache and turmoil. Turmoil where a mother will be abused and beaten in the shadow of a Christmas tree decorated with the cross of a savior. We see the mother finally stand up for herself, only to go to a home where there is still hurt and selfishness exhibited by the people who are supposed to love her the most. This is a powerful illustration of many like myself over the years, looking for love, only to be greeted with heartache, all along the way, never feeling understood or loved. Hurting and crying, realizing that those that are supposed to love us either don’t or are incapable to for whatever reason.

This is the backdrop of North Country, unfortunately for me, the story line hit way too close to home. It hit close because of my own upbringing and my own life experiences. While there were some vastly different types of things that occurred in my life I could relate to more portrayed on screen than I would have liked to. I found myself having a better understanding of the reality of abuse, neglect, and yes, even sin in the lives of those who live day to day in these types of environments. We live in a world where we hope for the best, but often experience the worst. A world where it is easier to throw blame out at others, than it is to try and make things right. A world filled with characters where people care more about themselves than they do those around them. While we know why people should care for themselves, and those around them, we know from personal experiences that far too often we are hurt and abused more by those who are supposed to care for us or even worse pretend to care. In the process, we all know many are more inclined to stab us in the back with a knife supposedly sharpened with love, but in reality, is sharpened with conceit and selfishness. Those are the battles that we see portrayed in the life of Josey Aimes and those around her. They are the battles that are hard to watch at times, but liberating because of the strength we ultimately see in the character.

North Country is inspired by the true story of a young single mother who seeks justice and appropriate treatment of women working in the Iron Mines of Northern Minnesota. In a world dominated by men, and sexism, Josey Aimes finally has enough and decides to stand up on her own behalf. Going against the wishes of the company, her friends, her family and female co-workers, she finally decides to do what is right despite the harsh criticism she receives. As a result, policies regarding the treatment of women on the work force, specifically in jobs such as this, were changed forever around the globe, especially in America. The sacrifice that is required was not lost on this particular viewer.

As mentioned earlier, this movie reminded me too much of my own experiences in some ways. I found myself being in many ways like the son of Aimes, who at times hates his mother. He don’t understand her, and he is certainly within his rights to have many of the feelings towards her that he does. What he don’t see however, is the sacrifices his mother has made, that doesn’t excuse the wrongs, but neither should it ignore the difficulties and horrors she has gone through which have helped her be the way she is. Has she done wrong? Most certainly, but when she finally decides to make things right, the relationship between mother and son change for the better. Both characters have to learn to forgive, and focus on the love that has the potential to exist. In the process, a son finds a mother, and a mother finds a son. We also see the forgiveness and reality of love that can exist in a family.

What makes this story line in North Country even more interesting is the issue of abortion that comes up in the film. I won’t go into detail here or give out any kind of a spoiler, but when abortion was an option for this woman, she is portrayed as choosing life. The character states, “When I felt you kicking in my belly, I knew that you were mine despite the wrong that was done.” I am not certain if this will bring out the political pundits on both sides of the issue of abortion or not. I do know that if this is the primary focus of many seeing this film, they have lost sight of the importance of the overall message of the film. This movie is about so much more than this single issue.

Ultimately, what we see is a character who receives the support of those around her. We see her lawyer who learns to really care played by Woody Harrelson. We see a friend who struggles with the issues but ultimately decides to live life played brilliantly by Frances McDormand. We see the husband of that friend, standing by his wife in a loving and caring way, while at the same time offering love and wonderful advice to those he comes into contact with. There is the mother, Sissy Spacek of Josey who has lived her life in a mining town, supporting a husband who has worked in the mines for most of his life. The father, while loving his daughter and family, has never had the guts to stand up and search out for truth, it is only when faced with loosing two of the things that he loves the most that he realizes the need for himself to stand up and express love. He realizes that jobs, friends, and perspectives are not nearly as important as the love of family. There is strength in numbers, but sometimes those strengths are inspired by the willingness of a single person to take a stand, and that is what the character of Josey Aimes was willing to do.

As mentioned earlier, this is a chance to editorialize. North Country is an example of the reality that sexism still exists to the level that it does. It is an example that in some communities, that a job is more important than what is right. It is an example that some can pretend to love those around them, but when feeling threatened, it is possible to lash out with a vengeance that is the incarnate of pure evil. It is an example of how hard it is to get up when you have been knocked down, over, and over, and over again. It is an example of how many refuse to care about those around them when it might mean some sacrifice is required of self. Yes, North Country portrays a lot about America and the way we treat each other. It says a lot about greed, and corporate power, but it also says a lot about strength in numbers and the ability to do right. That right is not done without sacrifice, but once obtained; we find that the struggle and battle is worth it. Unfortunately, not all involved get to receive the spoils of the prize, some are lost along the way, but we have to ask ourselves; What about the ultimate costs of not doing right? Are we willing to live in a society that finds more value in the willingness not to love than it does the willingness to do right, and find the potential for love?

Truth is, that North Country did not do nearly as well as expected during the opening weekend. I suspect that a part of that is that we don’t like to be reminded of the difficulties that many go through. That is a shame when we have television shows like Extreme Makeover Home Edition that portrays the desire to do good. We don’t like to be reminded though of the times that we should have stood up, been counted, and made a difference. Yet, the truth of it is that we can all do better. One of the wonderful things about movies like this is it has the potential to make us squirm in our seats at the recognition of our own failures. If we stick around, stand up for what is right, it is also one of the things that can inspire us. There is the potential to be moved to tears, and joy over the recognition that we can be a part of a larger picture that can change society, not just on issues like the ones portrayed in North Country, but with issues where we see injustices all around us in day to day life.

On a scale of 1-10 for the number of times I mentioned the movie North Country in the review, I give it an awe inspiring 9

—1. Overview (multimedia)
—2. Overview Basic (dial up speed)
—3. Reviews and Blogs
—4. Cast and Crew
—5. Photo Pages
—6. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—7. Posters (
Charlize Theron)
—8. Production Notes (pdf)
—9. Spiritual Connections

4 Comments:

Blogger Jacob Sahms said...

hey Mike! Thanks for sharing your story with us-- that gives added credibility to North Country and it gives us new perspective on the things we take for granted. And speaking of perspective-- thanks for your introduction in the latest HJ Reviews!

9:00 PM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Thanks, and I hope to see you in Washington at HJAG

4:15 AM

 
Anonymous Daniel said...

Hi, Mike -- my name is Daniel, and I work for Participant Productions, who produced the film. You might be interested to know that we have organized social action campaigns inspired by this film as well as the others we have produced. You can see Stand Up, our campaign for North Country, at participate.net/standup.

2:45 PM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Thanks for the link. I was aware of some of the efforts of the company and personally find it encouraging that the movie is doing something to help out in these areas. There are a number of folk who work hard and give of their lives in work situations like this. God bless them and their labors, we all have better lives because of their sacrifices.

10:23 AM

 

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