It's not often that you get to see actresses in the upper age bracket given plum roles in a feature film. Jan Dunn's effort makes good use of messrs Blethyn, York, Tushingham, McLynn, Harker and Donohoe. Each of them have strong parts and seize them with relish.
Most of them play nuns at a small convent in Ramsgate. York is the mad Prioress, Blethyn the sensible and caring sister with a big secret up her sleeve, Tushingham the alcoholic, Harker the tramp and McLynn the misery guts. Their ordered life is thrown into turmoil however when young and attractive Joanna (Beecham) joins their ranks. She believes she has the calling and wants to get closer to God. though this decision has nothing to do with the accident and operation she had on her brain as a child. Most of the nuns give her short shrift and her best friend Vivien (Sirene) is horrified at her decision to renounce her lifestyle of pubs and socialising, as well as the dumping of her beau. Her protective and rather ill mother (Donohoe) shares the same opinion. Revelations soon come to the fore as the young beauty's presence upsets the nun's way of doing things.
The inappropriate music score gives the impression that one is watching a Carry On-style comedy but the overheated dramatics give the lie to that. All the nun's have personal disorders with repressed emotions and the performers execute these traits with gusto. York sports a fierce Irish accent while Tushingham utiliises a Liverpudlian twang as a rapid football supporter. Harker is good at suggesting shallow malice with deep rooted concern while McLynn is convincingly unsympathetic. And Beecham is lovely as the youngster combatting this cauldron of conflict,underplaying nicely to counterbalance the histrionics. If Karen Gillan ever decides to leave Doctor Who then Ms Beecham would be a worthy replacement.
Unfortunately though, the overall tone of the film is is uncertain, the light-hearted moments do not coalesce well with the more melodramatic sequences - after all, pregnancy, adoption, abortion and even the menopause are all subjects touched upon - and though the cast is uniformly good, the script and direction are not persuasive enough to convince. It's a fair effort that misses the mark, but the commendable cast deserve praise. It's great that they've been given the opportunity but they deserve better.