GALA D: Jim Sheridan. Ireland. 108 min. Sep 15, 6:30 pm, Roy Thomson Hall Sep 16, noon, Ryerson Sep 18, 9:45 am, Isabel Bader. Rating: N
You know what kind of movie The Secret Scripture is going to be from its opening moments – sombre piano music tracking shots of someone scribbling on the edges of a bible, followed by long, wide shots of Vanessa Redgrave wandering through an asylum. It’s the kind of tangled, self-important prestige picture that went out of fashion somewhere in the mid-90s.
The Secret Scripture weaves together three or four major narratives – one about the tensions between the English and Irish during the Second World War, another about the systemic mistreatment of women, still another about the Magdalene laundries (though they’re never identified as such here) and then maybe something about gentrification (the institution in which Redgrave’s character has been held for half a century is about to be turned into “a hotel and spa”).
It’s just one scene after another of stilted dialogue and clunky moralizing, all set to Brian Byrne’s syrupy score.
Rooney Mara and Jack Reynor are wasted in lengthy flashbacks as a couple who fall in love during wartime while a scowling priest (Theo James) looks on in disapproval half a century later, Eric Bana and Susan Lynch are adrift as a doctor and nurse who listen to Redgrave’s tale of woe. It all comes together with a twist ending that’s both painfully obvious and utter bollocks.
It’s hard to believe that director Sheridan is the same man who made My Left Foot and In America.