by NEVIL GIBSON
Like many small countries, Ireland has a thriving film industry.
In recent months it has also displayed global ambitions, most noticeably with One Thousand
Times Goodnight (reviewed Jan. 25) about a globetrotting conflict zone photographer.
The leads were French and Danish, while the director was Norwegian. It was set in Afghanistan and Kenya as well as Ireland.
Noble (Rialto) also spans the globe, starting from the slums of Dublin, where Christina Noble
grew up in an environment reminiscent of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. Shades of Philomena
and The Magdalene Laundries soon follow.
Noble, played by Deirdre O’Kane (Moone Boy), proves resilient as her nightmare teen years
proceed through industrial school, where she and her siblings are sent after their mother dies and their alcoholic father is unfit to care for them.
She lives in the open for years before ending up in a convent as an unmarried mother. She moves to England after her child is adopted and then marries a Greek Cypriot, with whom she has three more children.
This relationship turns sour and abusive but, with her own children grown up, Noble embarks
on a second life, sparked by scenes on television of the Vietnam war.
Up to this stage, Noble is played by two younger actresses and the scenes are recounted in brief flashbacks scattered throughout the main narrative.
This starts with her first visit to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, in 1989 and her passion to provide a home for orphaned street kids, who are living in abandoned buildings.
Her efforts to help them are at first resisted by indifferent police and bureaucrats, who suspect the motives of a foreigner.
Persistence pays off, her visa is extended, and with the help of a Madame Linh (Nhu Quynh Nguyen), she starts a project that eventually spans more than 100 projects in Vietnam and Mongolia.
Noble has plenty going for her. Her extrovert personality is matched by tenacity, as she seeks support in both Ireland and from an Irish oil industry executive (Brendan Coyle of Downton Abbey fame).
Throughout her life she is buoyed by a desire to perform like her idol Doris Day and through
low-key conversations with God.
Noble avoids many of the clichés of faith-based films and depends solely on a powerful personality to carry the story.
The flashbacks appear on a random basis, but at the right moments add further detail to what
drives her. They also provide a reminder that her life’s journey has more than its share of rough times.
Although some of the filmmaking is less than polished, its authenticity is impressive. This is particularly the case with O’Kane (the writer-producer-director is her husband, Stephen Bradley).
Her performance as the adult Noble carries through to the now required factual recap at the end. Rating: Mature audiences (violence, offensive language and sex scenes); 100 minutes.