Cinema Review: Noble | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, August 11th, 2020  


Studio: Aspiration Media
Directed by Stephen Bradley

May 07, 2015 Web Exclusive
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Christina Noble, the subject of Irish film maker Stephen Bradley’s biopic, established a foundation in Vietnam dedicated to helping children suffering from poverty, hunger, and homelessness. The film, aptly titled Noble, splits the narrative between Noble’s time in Vietnam—when she arrived in the country with nothing more than a sense of purpose and generosity—and her upbringing as a young, orphaned girl in Ireland. As an adult, she is portrayed perfectly by Deirdre O’Kane (Moone Boy), but Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful) really stands out as a younger version of Christina. Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey) and Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) also star.

At first glance, Noble is yet another in a long history of films engrained with the white savior complex. Christina Noble, driven by a dream likely inspired by news coverage of the Vietnam war, swoops in to rescue Vietnamese children from their oppressors and circumstances, and the resulting narrative focuses not on the struggles of the children but rather on Noble’s grace and wholesome service. There is some truth to that criticism here, but Noble tries very hard to illustrate the similarities between war-torn Vietnam and mid-century Ireland, arguing that poverty is poverty no matter where, and Noble’s efforts should not be discounted merely based on her supposed privilege. Noble herself is subjected to abuse and shame in a social welfare system dominated by Catholicism, where nuns adopted her newborn son out from under her without her knowing (a common practice in Ireland toward unwed mothers until as late as the 1990s.) Cynical political criticism aside, Noble survived one oppressive system only to focus on delivering countless others out of circumstances beyond their control. 

Yet even the most careful treading cannot hide the overemphasis on turning reality into an intentionally inspirational work. Noble is far more tolerable than most ambitious biopics—I daresay I enjoyed it more than The Imitation Game—but still suffers from the same tropes that plague the genre. There’s very little daring or imaginative work here, but rather careful, if sometimes rushed, storytelling and sensory establishment. The foggy fields of Ireland’s Connemara are beautifully and bleakly shot, and the film is superbly acted. At the end of the day, the film is an earnest tribute to a strong and ambitious woman, whose story is worth sharing even without her charitable contributions.

Author rating: 6.5/10

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