Noble: Film Review
Cast: Deidre O'Kane, Sarah Greene, Nhu Quynh Nguyen
Director: Stephen Bradley
Sometimes inspirational stories and their subjects are failed by the leap to the big screen.
So it is with the well-intentioned but ultimately weakly executed Noble, a film that fails to inspire and live up to the legacy of Christina Noble, the Irish charity worker who underwent horrors in her formative years but began fighting the cause of the Vietnamese street children, leading to the creation of her children's charity foundation.
Moone Boy star (and also wife of director Bradley) Deidre O'Kane is the elder Noble who finds herself in Vietnam, after visions exhort her to do so. Exuding an irrepressible self-belief and confidence, Noble believes she can help the street children to better lives, despite the insistence of the authorities otherwise.
When Noble finds herself at a run-down orphanage after railing at God to lead her to her destiny, Noble discovers her work's cut out for her in among the sea of hands and wailing of unhappy children, wrecked by poverty and wracked by the after-effects of the likes of Agent Orange and abuse.
It's hard to describe the disappointment of Noble, a story that so fudges every major emotional beat and hides the true darkness of the abject horror that Christina went through. From her alcoholic father to her mis-treatment by nuns at the local orphanage, through to her gang-rape and consequent child being adopted out, Noble has a powerful story to espouse; a recognition of the strength of spirit in the face of such continued and sustained adversity.
But Bradley, who wrote and directed the piece, boils the whole thing down to its simplest moments, avoiding any of the true horrors from Christina Noble's book, Bridge Across My Sorrows, because it doesn't hold any truck with his attempts to please the crowd and manipulate them with piano-swelling music, aimed at telling you what to feel and when to feel it.
Some of the problem comes from drowning the film in too many flashbacks, from Christina as a young child in the grim settings of 1950s Dublin to the teen Christina dealing with disappointment and the evil that men do, without giving them space to breathe and us a chance to connect. The ebb and flow of the film doesn't help either with one-dimensional caricatures the only things to cross Christina's path.
Things get slightly better with O'Kane's venerable and charismatic turn as the compassionate Noble, giving the road to enlightenment and selflessness more a humane touch. But again, the latter stages of her journey only feel more grounded in her limited interactions with Downton Abbey's Mr Bates aka Brendan Coyle as a potential benefactor rather than the fight against immigration or the powers that be.
The fact Noble ends with Coldplay's In My Place ringing out as the camera pans back to reveal the creation of Christina's clinic and the signifying that her endless fighting and suffering has resulted in something speaks volumes to the biopic's blandness and muddled execution. It's a travesty to Noble's legacy and a shock to anyone who's expecting some kind of subtlety for this film - if you're expecting to be inspired, there are other films which would serve you better than this.