Inspirational story of a tenacious philanthropist

Excellent ****

Noble (15A)

The incredible work of Christina Noble in setting up a foundation for the abused and homeless street children of Vietnam and Mongolia is well known throughout the world and she gets a fitting tribute to her life in this ëbiopicí. Sheís always impressed me with her sense of good cheer as well as her big heart and both of these qualities are well in evidence in a film that oozes authenticity.

The nuns come in for a bit of a battering in it, which seems de rigueur in these types of films, but director Stephen Bradley deals with this aspect of her life briskly and without too much breast-beating. As was the case in Philomena, Christina had a child who was given up for adoption by the nuns without her being informed of it. (Her pregnancy came about as a result of her being raped one night as a young girl when she was living rough in the Phoenix Park.)

She certainly lived a life and a half. The daughter of a shiftless alcoholic father (Liam Cunningham doing his usual hardbitten role) and a mother who died young from TB, her resilient spirit saw her through a lot. A dysfunctional relationship with a violent and unfaithful man in Birmingham by whom she had three children, a dangerous tussle with a child molester and  various struggles to raise money for her charity work when she went to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in 1989. 

Three actresses play her at different stages of her life. Gloria Cramer Curtis exhibits her feisty spirit as a child but I thought she looked too much like a 'Billy Barry' type in this segment – and also too well fed. This seemed to go against the grain of the poverty-stricken world Bradley conveys so evocatively.

Sarah Greene plays her as a young woman and gives what was to my mind the best performance in the film. I predict a bright future for this Nicole Kidman lookalike. She's a natural in front of the camera.


Deirdre O'Kane (Bradley's wife in real life) plays her in her later years and I'm not sure if this was a wise choice either. O'Kane has a naturalistic style of acting and is also a friend of Christina Noble – she's done benefits for her foundation – but she's so implanted in the public psyche as a stand-up comedian you can't help seeing her as Deirdre O'Kane with blonde hair, rather than Ms Noble. 

Whatever about Christinaís view of the nuns, she retained a strong faith and talked to God – I think that's a more apt term than "prayed" to him – about every aspect of her life as she was going through it, often "giving out" to him about perceived injustices.

The film juxtaposes past and present throughout but I had my doubts about the advisability of this. Why didn't Bradley just tell the story chronologically? I couldn't see the point of the repeated flashbacks.

But this is still an excellent film about a heroic woman whose experience of hardship in her childhood gave her that extra empathy for those suffering in similar ways in such far-flung places as Vietnam, which, as she says, she "couldn't even find on a map" when she first heard of it.