BFS Video // 2010 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 14th, 2011
A tale of strength, survival and forgiveness.
During the heat of the War in the Pacific a group of Australian nuns find themselves left on their own to face Japanese occupation.
As the Japanese empire island-hops, a station staffed by nuns and nurses is left to their own devices when the Australian forces bug out. With no one to defend them, the nurses are forced to surrender to the Japanese and manage to eke out an accord with their captors, where they're allowed to care for their wounded while maintaining a tenuous peace with the Empire.
Through this tense situation, Army nurse Lorna Whyte (Sarah Snook) and Sister Berenice Twohill (Claire van der Boom) form a strong friendship -- which will be tested in a big way when their relatively hospitable situation takes a terrible turn.
Interesting movie. Sisters of War is based on a true story, and it's a story worth telling. I hadn't the faintest idea about what Australian nurses and nuns were up to during World War II, so a little history lesson is always appreciated. Mix that with the fact that this is a genuinely interesting human interest story -- told well and executed nicely -- and you've got yourself a modest gem.
A TV movie originally, Sisters of War sports a top-line production design; I didn't realize it was a TV movie until looking it up on IMDb. Most of the film takes place on location and there are a handful of cinematic moments, including an intense scene featuring a bombing run. Either the filmmakers are skilled at masking a low budget or there was a nice chunk of change to work with.
Which would of course mean bupkus if the story was wobbly. Not the case. The narrative engine that drives the film is the friendship between Twohill and Whyte. It's a nuanced relationship, which starts rocky then solidifies into a sisterhood in the face of huge adversity. Snook and van der Boom are quite good in the leading roles and play characters divergent enough so that it offers a substantial emotional payload when they forge their bond. Even better: the follow-up with the real Lorna Whyte and Berenice Twohill at the end of the film. There's a tear-jerker for even the studliest among us.
A quick note about the film's intensity. It may be a made-for-TV film but there are some disturbing sequences, including POW executions, the aforementioned bombing run (many nuns get mowed down) and some torture footage. It's nothing to upset the stomach of any battle-hardened war movie viewer, but it's several notches grislier than your standard issue TV movie.
A bare-bones DVD: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 2.0 stereo, no extras.
An untold story and a unique look at the played out World War II genre. Worth checking out.
Not Guilty. Girl power!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BFS Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated