The true story of Irish woman Christina Noble (Deirdre O’Kane), who overcame her harsh early life to become an aid worker for the children of Saigon.
In Ireland, Christina Noble is a household name; Noble set up a charitable foundation for the cast out children of Saigon, and helped to create a future for the kids. For the first time, audiences get to learn the story behind the woman who helped so many.
Noble is an incredibly personal project for lead actress Deirdre O’Kane, not only did her husband write and direct the film, but they sold their home in Ireland to buy the rights to Noble’s books. O’Kane channels the persona of Noble onto the screen – as do Sarah Greene and Gloria Cramer Curtis, who play the titular character at various stages of her life – to give us an insight into the woman behind the charity. The three actresses performances weave together to make Christina Noble a feisty, courageous and tenacious woman. Cramer Curtis is a revelation as young Christina; as bright and feisty as Dublin kids often are, with tons of personality and a talent for nuance. Sarah Greene continues her streak of choosing diverse roles as she takes on arguably the time in Noble’s life that was most difficult, but allows both the woman’s courage and vulnerability to show through. O’Kane carries on Greene’s performance and, although perhaps some of her dialogue could have been slowed down, rounds out the trio admirably. Liam Cunningham and Ruth Negga round out the cast as Christina’s father and best friend.
The story weaves together a familiar, but heartbreaking tale; after her mother dies, Christina is given into the care of a religious run Institution, only to find herself back there as an adult after experiencing a violent sexual assault. This is a story told in Irish cinema time and again – to varying degrees of success – but this time, we are allowed to see that this traumatic upbringing did not break all those who went though the system, in fact, many came out stronger and more determined to succeed.
As screenwriter, Stephen Bradley weaves together Christina’s story to give the audience a greater understanding of the woman herself, but a stronger focus on Noble’s work in Saigon could well have made the movie slightly more relevant, and not just a celebration and examination of the tough roads that Christina Noble walked. As well as this, although the film depicts the struggles that Noble went through, there are times when things seem to come a little too easily. It is true that Noble has the Irish charm, but not everyone is willing to be charmed.
As director, Bradley gives each incarnation of Noble a chance, and ties the three performances together to give the audience a strong idea of Christina Noble herself. The woman’s tenacity and determination shine through, and there are beautiful scenes that show her vulnerability, including one with the young Christina, who does not know whether to laugh or cry when her mother has died. That said, however, the film’s focus is a little messy, as it switches from the woman’s story to the work that Christina Noble has done, and back again, seemingly arbitrarily.
In all, Noble is a portrait of a woman who has lived up to her name. Cramer Curtis, Greene and O’Kane give great performances as Christina Noble, but the film is slightly unfocused and messy, leaving the audience wondering whether this is an examination of a woman’s strength in the face of adversity, or perhaps a celebration of the great work done by Christina Noble. That said, there is little doubt that Christina Noble has done great work for the kids of Saigon, and for that – and the standout performance of Gloria Cramer Curtis – the film is worth seeing.