Noble

 

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An award-winning film telling the inspirational story of Christina Noble who epitomises the fighting spirit of the Irish.

 

Christina Noble is a feisty Irish woman who in her forties travelled to Vietnam inspired by a dream to go there and help homeless street children. Attaching herself to an orphanage run by Madame Linh, she eventually found funding for what would become the first of more than a hundred such projects in that country and in Mongolia under the umbrella of the Christina Noble Foundation. For this she was honoured by both the Queen and the President of Vietnam. This fine achievement was all the more remarkable because Christina had already had to survive her own hardships. They included losing her mother when she was ten, a neglectful alcoholic father and, later on, marriage to an abusive Greek Cypriot. But worst of all was the interim period when, separated from her siblings, she was brought up in an institution by nuns who insisted that the child born to her after being gang-raped should be adopted. In retrospect, it was probably these experiences that spurred her on to do what she did for suffering youngsters in the Far East.

 

Noble

Noble by name: Deirdre O’Kane as Christina Noble with two of her wards

 

Such a story could have inspired a great film and deserved to do so, but while one does not doubt the sincerity of Stephen Bradley, the writer-director of Noble, this picture fails to measure up. The tale is not told chronologically even if it does start in Dublin in 1955 since we soon move on to Ho Chi Minh City in 1989 and then keep cutting back and forth to fill in earlier events in Ireland and in England. This proves rather disruptive, but the real problem stems from the film’s tone. The harsh realism of, say, The Magdalene Sisters (2002) is missing entirely, and nor does Bradley succeed in emulating the balance between popular appeal and depth of feeling present in Philomena (2013). Instead, despite authentic Vietnamese locations and a spirited performance by Bailey’s wife Deirdre O’Kane playing Christina in middle age, Noble emerges as a sentimentalised and unpersuasive account. Typical is the scene in which applying to the Vietnamese authorities for a work permit Christina (who as a child had been inspired by Doris Day) starts to sing to them. The actual music score, much present and constantly seeking to manipulate our emotions, adds to the sense of unreality in the telling of this true story.

Since this could all be seen as a matter of taste, it is only fair to say that Noble has won awards including four audience awards at festivals. This proves that some people do respond positively to Bradley’s approach, one epitomised by the tag line on the poster: ‘A dream that changed a million lives’. Best test of all is your response to the written words which, concluding the film, declare that ‘She still talks to God and still loves Doris Day’. Íf that strikes you as touching and apt, you may love this movie.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON                                                                                                                           

  

Cast: Deirdre O’Kane, Sarah Greene, Brendan Coyle, Liam Cunningham, Ruth Negga, Nhu Quynh Nguyen, Mark Huberman, Gloria Cramer Curtis, David Mumeni, Ngoc Tu’o’ng Le, Nguyen Khoa Tien Dat.

  

Dir and Screenplay (based on books by Christina Noble and her life story rights) Stephen Bradley, Pro Melanie Gore-Grimes and Stephen Bradley, Ph Trevor Forrest, Pro Des Cristina Casali, Ed Mags Arnold, Music Giles Martin and Ben Foster, Costumes Charlotte Walker.

  

Ansty Productions/Destiny films/The Irish Film Board etc-Miracle Communications.
101 mins. UK/Ireland. 2013. Rel: 12 February 2016. Cert. 15.