There's a scene early on in North Country that hints at what's to come. Josey Aimes (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron), who's just escaped her physically abusive marriage and returned home to start over, is sitting in church with her parents and two kids. A row of fresh-faced girls in white frilly dresses enters the sanctuary for their first communion. There's something moving about seeing Josey's still swollen and bruised face and then cutting to the priest pronouncing "The Body of Christ, broken for you" while placing the wafers in the young girls' mouths.
Broken is an apt word for this woman who's already suffered much. And broken further she will be as she seeks a fresh start for herself and her kids through a difficult but lucrative job at the local mine, where she and the handful of other female employees are the sacrificial lambs for all the women who would one day dare to "take a man's job away from him," as many of the locals see it.
The first scenes of the mine—aerial shots of the billowing steam rising from the towering smokestacks in the frigid Minnesota air—speak a lot as well of the pressure that's building within. The black coal and dirt laden with white snow—and Josey's black eye contrasting with the clean, white communion dresses—whisper of the rigid, black-and-white ways of this small, late 1980s, blue-collar town. Ways that are about to be challenged.
Josie's parents are the first to express disapproval of her new job. When she tells them of her new employment, her father (Six Feet Under's Richard Jenkins), who's worked at the mine for decades, just stares at her, then blurts, "So you want to become a lesbian?" Her cowering, compliant mother (Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek) ...1
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