Secret Scripture ***

3 out of 5 stars

This Irish film opens with Vanessa Redgrave’s Rose, an Irish woman who has spent over 40 years in a mental hospital that’s about to close, being re-examined by Eric Bana’s Dr. Greene in preparation for her relocation, during which the film flashes back to unpack her life story and the secrets within. This storytelling structure is not the only thing that is old fashioned and familiar in this film. Basically this is The Magdelene Sisters, Philomena and Brooklyn in a blender with the tearjerk-o-meter and preposterousness turned up to 11. Rooney Mara plays the younger Rose being wooed by a trio of hunks: Theo James (a bit too GQ for a priest), Aiden Turner (in what’s really a shirted cameo) and Jack Reynor (looking very sexy and noble indeed) and the far-fetched plotting would not be out of place in a Barbara Cartland or Mills and Boon novel. It is thus up to the very able cast (with their shiny Irish accents) to sell it and that they do. Jim Sheridan delivers mostly with the aid of a picturesque Ireland as backdrop and one cannot help but tears up in the final scenes even though one also feels totally manipulated into doing so. One for the moms, then.

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