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North Country (film)

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North Country (film)

North Country
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Niki Caro
Produced by Nick Wechsler
Written by Michael Seitzman
Based on Class Action 
by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler
Starring Charlize Theron
Frances McDormand
Sean Bean
Richard Jenkins
Michelle Monaghan
Jeremy Renner
with Woody Harrelson
and Sissy Spacek
Music by Gustavo Santaolalla
Cinematography Chris Menges
Edited by David Coulson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • September 12, 2005 (2005-09-12) (TIFF)
  • October 21, 2005 (2005-10-21)
Running time 126 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $35 million
Box office $25,211,175

North Country is a 2005 American drama film directed by Niki Caro. The screenplay by Michael Seitzman was inspired by the 2002 book Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler, which chronicled the case of Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Company.


In 1989, Josey Aimes returns to her hometown in northern Minnesota with her children, Sammy and Karen, after escaping from her abusive husband. She moves in with her parents, Alice and Hank. Hank is ashamed of Josey, who had Sammy as a teenager by an unknown father and therefore thinks Josey is promiscuous. The townspeople believe the same, which causes the community not to associate with her. Her only friends are Glory Dodge and Glory's husband, Kyle. Glory, who works at the local iron mines (the town's main source of income), aids Josey in getting a job there. Glory and Kyle also allow Josey to stay at their place with her children, due to Josey's bad relationship with her father.

Josey quickly befriends the other female workers at the mine, who include Glory, Sherry, Peg and Big Betty, and soon realizes the women are constant targets for sexual harassment and humiliation by most of their male co-workers, most notably Bobby Sharp, a former friend of Josey's from high school, as most of the townspeople believe women should not be allowed to be miners. After her own experiences and witnessing the harassment of the other women, Josey tries to talk to her direct supervisor about the problem, but he refuses to take her concerns seriously as he also believes women should not be working at the mine.

Josey fighting back against the men's harassment causes them to spread lies about her trying to seduce them, which causes Josey to be berated in public by Bobby's wife and loses her respect from Sammy, who starts believing that his mother is indeed promiscuous after hearing what the others are saying. After even the mine's board of directors refuses to hear Josey's complaints about the way women are treated at the mine, and after being sexually assaulted by Bobby at work, she quits and asks Bill White, a lawyer friend of Kyle and Glory, to help her file a lawsuit against the company. Bill tells her that the best way to win a case like this is by convincing the other women to back up her statements in court, which would make it the first class-action sexual-harassment lawsuit ever filed in the country. The women, however, are hesitant, as this would mean risking their jobs or making the harassment even worse. Josey also discovers that Glory has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.)

Hank is disappointed by Josey's decision, and Alice leaves him, tired of hearing him criticizing their daughter. Hank later attends a union meeting. Josey appears, hoping to address the miners and explain her reasons for suing the mine. When they refuse to hear her and start verbally abusing her, Hank stands up for his daughter and reprimands his co-workers for their rude treatment of Josey and all the women at the mine.

At the court, the mine's lawyers attempt to hold Josey's so-called "promiscuous" past against her, and have Bobby Sharp testify on how Sammy is the result of a consensual sexual relationship between Josey and one of their high-school teachers. Josey then reveals the truth: When she and Bobby were in high school, they were caught skipping class and kissing by the teacher and were forced to stay after school as punishment. When detention ended, Bobby left first to start up his car, intending to give Josey a ride. While he was away, Josey was raped by their teacher. When Bobby came back into the school to get Josey, he witnessed the rape and, not knowing what to do, he left the school quickly and never told anyone due to his shame over not saving Josey. Josey got pregnant from the rape and gave birth to Sammy. Josey's lawyer Bill gets Bobby to admit he is lying about the sex being consensual.

Glory has come to the court in her wheelchair and from the back of the room, her husband reads a letter saying she stands with Josey. Other women then stand up to support Josey's complaint. They are followed by more women, family members, and miners, making the case a class action. With this, the mining company loses the case and is forced to pay the women for what they suffered, in addition to establishing a sexual harassment policy at the workplace. Josey, vindicated, thanks Bill for all that he has done for her and her family and departs to teach Sammy how to drive, telling him that she intends to buy him a car on his 18th birthday.



Lois Jenson, on whom the character of Josey is based, actually began working at the EVTAC (from "Eveleth Taconite") mine in Eveleth, Minnesota in 1975 and initiated her lawsuit in 1984, four years before the year in which the film begins. Its time line was condensed, but in reality it took fourteen years for the case to be settled. Jenson declined to sell the rights to her story or act as the film's consultant.[1]

The film was shot in the towns of Eveleth, Virginia, Chisholm, and Hibbing in northern Minnesota; Minneapolis; and Silver City and Santa Fe in New Mexico.


  1. "North Country" by Gustavo Santaolalla – 2:08
  2. "Girl of the North Country" by Leo Kottke – 3:33
  3. "Tell Ol' Bill" by Bob Dylan – 5:08
  4. "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon – 3:28
  5. "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes – 3:49
  6. "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me)" by The Bellamy Brothers – 3:17
  7. "Lay Lady Lay" by Bob Dylan – 3:19
  8. "A Saturday in My Classroom" by Gustavo Santaolalla – 3:46
  9. "Sweetheart Like You" by Bob Dylan – 4:37
  10. "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me" by Mac Davis – 3:05
  11. "Do Right to Me Baby (Do Unto Others)" by Bob Dylan – 3:52
  12. "Standing Up" by Gustavo Santaolalla – 2:43
  13. "Paths of Victory" by Cat Power – 3:24

Songs in the film that weren't in the soundtrack release include "Wasn't That a Party" by Hit Me With Your Best Shot."


The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was shown at the Chicago International Film Festival before going into theatrical release in the US, where it grossed $6,422,455 in its opening weekend, ranking 5th at the box office.[2] Budgeted at $30 million, it eventually grossed $18,324,242 in the US and $5,300,000 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $23,624,242.[3]

Critical reception

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 69% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 162 reviews.[4] On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 68 out of 100, based on 39 reviews.[5]

Manohla Dargis of the New York Times called it "a star vehicle with heart – an old-fashioned liberal weepie about truth and justice" and added, "[It] is one of those Hollywood entertainments that strive to tell a hard, bitter story with as much uplift as possible. That the film works as well as it does, delivering a tough first hour only to disintegrate like a wet newspaper, testifies to the skill of the filmmakers as well as to the constraints brought on them by an industry that insists on slapping a pretty bow on even the foulest truth."[6]

In his review in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert observed, "North Country is one of those movies that stir you up and make you mad, because it dramatizes practices you've heard about but never really visualized. We remember that Frances McDormand played a woman police officer in this same area in Fargo, and we value that memory, because it provides a foundation for Josey Aimes. McDormand's role in this movie is different and much sadder, but brings the same pluck and common sense to the screen. Put these two women together (as actors and characters) and they can accomplish just about anything. Watching them do it is a great movie experience."[7]

Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle called the film a "compelling if occasionally unnecessarily convoluted movie . . . The first 15 minutes or so are a mess . . . Fortunately, [it] calms down and becomes extremely engrossing, especially in the courtroom battles . . . it's all carefully calculated for dramatic effect and succeeds brilliantly in drawing you in and eliciting tears in the process . . . North Country would have benefited from crisper editing. It runs at least 15 minutes longer than necessary . . . For all its flaws, [it] delivers an emotional wallop and a couple of performances worthy of recognition come award time."[8]

In Rolling Stone, Peter Travers awarded the film two out of a possible four stars and commented, "Any similarities between Josey and Lois Jenson, the real woman who made Eveleth Mines pay for their sins in a landmark 1988 class-action suit, are purely coincidental. Instead, we get a TV-movie fantasy of female empowerment glazed with soap-opera theatrics. The actors, director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) and the great cinematographer Chris Menges all labor to make things look authentic. But a crock is a crock, despite the ferocity and feeling Theron brings to the role . . . Though the dirt and grime in North Country are artfully applied, it's purely cosmetic and skin-deep."[9]

In "Stories from North Country," a documentary accompanying the film on the DVD, Lois Jenson, on whom the story is based, said, "I think it's important for people to see this." Regarding Charlize Theron, Jenson said, "She has the character. [...] She knew the part. She knew what it needed – the depth she needed to go to. She's done a great job with it."

David Rooney of Variety said, "[It] indulges in movie-ish manipulation in its climactic courtroom scenes. But it remains an emotionally potent story told with great dignity, to which women especially will respond . . . The film represents a confident next step for lead Charlize Theron. Though the challenges of following a career-redefining Oscar role have stymied actresses, Theron segues from Monster to a performance in many ways more accomplished . . . The strength of both the performance and character anchor the film firmly in the tradition of other dramas about working-class women leading the fight over industrial workplace issues, such as Norma Rae or Silkwood."[10]

In the St. Petersburg Times, Steve Persall graded the film A and called it "deeply, undeniably moving . . . crusader cinema at its finest."[11]

Awards and nominations

See also


  1. ^ "A victim rises up," ''St. Petersburg Times'', October 20, 2005. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  2. ^ ''North Country'' at. (2005-10-21). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  3. ^ ''North Country'' at Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  4. ^ ''North Country at Rotten Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  5. ^ ''North Country'' at. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  6. ^ Dargis, Manohla. (2005-10-21) review. New York Times. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  7. ^ ''Chicago Sun-Times'' review. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  8. ^ ''San Francisco Chronicle'' review. (2005-10-21). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  9. ^ ''Rolling Stone'' review. (2005-10-20). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  10. ^ Rooney, David. (2005-09-12) ''Variety'' review. Variety. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
  11. ^ "A Victim Rises Up". St. Petersburg Times (USA). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.

External links

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