Film & TV

British Film Festival Review: The Secret Scripture

A new psychiatrist is brought in to assess a woman who has been a patient for over 50 years, unveiling her harrowing journey of destruction and incarceration.

The Secret Scripture delves deep into the past and present of a mentally unstable Irish woman, immersing the audience in the political tensions in Ireland in the 1920s and ‘30s, the struggles of Irish women and the power of the Church.

A long-standing psychiatric hospital is being transformed into a new hotel and spa, forcing its mentally unstable residents to be removed as soon as possible. Psychiatrist Doctor William Greene (Eric Bana) is brought in to assess Lady Rose (Vanessa Redgrave), who has been inside the hospital for over 50 years. As we listen to her seemingly nonsensical ramblings, the film takes us back to her past as Roseanne McNulty (Rooney Mara) and we witness her harrowing journey of destruction and eventual incarceration at the hands of those around her.

Flashbacks into World War 2 reveal young Rose moving to a small country town to work at her Aunt’s cafe due to the lack of work in Belfast. With her exquisite features and strong character, she is admired by all of the town’s men, protestant and Catholic alike, as well as scandalously capturing the heart of the town’s priest (Theo James).

After being disowned by the townsfolk and exiled to a lone cottage in the forest she miraculously finds love with a brave and charming fighter pilot. Her happiness, however, doesn’t last long as her world is ripped apart one soul-destroying piece at a time by men fuelled by political hate, lust and jealously and, ultimately, the power of the Church.

Rooney Mara is every inch the beautiful and bold young woman she portrays, with her fierce blue eyes and confident stature a constant throughout the terrors she faces. Mara also convincingly captures the collapse of this once proud women and decline into mental illness.

Vanessa Redgrave demonstrates why she still is one of the best British actresses around, as she completely embodies the emotionally destroyed Rose of the present. Her wavering blue eyes, her shaking elderly frame and constantly vulnerable state haunt you as she attempts to relay the horrors of her past to the sympathetic Dr Greene.

Theo James captures the torment within him as the town’s priest who has fallen for young Rose, and who struggles within the web of contradictions between his religious boundaries and the normal desires of a young man in love.

The Secret Scripture doesn’t hold back in the depiction of a young Irish woman’s life being torn apart by the lust and jealously within a small Irish town, as well as the horror that comes from Ireland’s religious divide. Here is an incredibly strong film that is riveting throughout and will shock you with its dramatic ending.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Twitter: @Georgie_xox

Rating out of 10: 7

The Secret Scripture will screen again on 12 and 22 November 2016 for the BBC First British Film Festival, which runs 3 – 23 November 2016 exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.

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