North Country

 
Directed by: Niki Caro
Written by:Michael Seitzman
Starring: Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sean Bean, Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins, Sissy Spacek
Released: February 2, 2006
Grade: A-

Battling to make ends meet, Josey Aimes (Theron) is a single mother living in Minnesota.  She recently left her abusive husband and is now back home with her parents and her two young children.  In need of employment, Josey accepts a job in a nearby mine.  The money is good but it’s an industry in which men outnumber women by 30 to 1.

Josey is about to learn why there aren’t many women in this workplace.  Most of the male employees are resentful of their presence because they are taking jobs away from other men.  This has given them the right to harass, both verbally and physically, the female staff.  None of the women speak up because they can’t afford to lose their jobs and they wouldn’t be believed anyway.

After several confronting incidents, Josey takes a stand.  She quits her job and with the help of a retired lawyer (Harrelson), commences a lawsuit against the operators of the mine.  The year is 1989 and the case will be a first in the American legal system.  It won’t be easy however because no other women are prepared to support Josey (they value their jobs more) and the mining company will stop at nothing to protect their own reputation.

This film is fictional but is based on America’s first successful sexual harassment case.  Some of the courtroom scenes are bit far-fetched but the overall story is very compelling.  There’s a scene in which Josey loses her cool in a car park after being taunted by the wife of another miner.  It’s a defining moment in the film and you get a sense of how difficult it must have been for Josey and her family.

It is the performances which make this film and both Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand (as a fellow miner) have received well-deserved Oscar nominations.  Like her role in Monster, I’m impressed by how Theron brings out in the flaws in her own character.  Her character may be dong the right thing but she often goes about it in the wrong way.

Directed by New Zealand born Niki Caro (Whale Rider), North Country is a strong film which most should enjoy.