Belfast Telegraph

Noble review: Inspiring story of the children's champion

From the Dublin slums to Vietnam, this biopic is a touching if rather light look at life of Christina Noble.

By Andrew Johnston

An Irish gutter is the same as a Vietnamese gutter", Christina Noble says to a South East Asian official early in Stephen Bradley's earnest biopic about the veteran charity campaigner, and it sums up the thrust of the film. Though tinged with the look of an ITV drama, the serious-minded Noble is a compelling watch, thanks primarily to the genuine Irish icon at its centre.

The story of the serendipitously monikered Noble – the founder of the Christina Noble Children's Foundation – is an inspiring and an amazing one.

We first meet Noble as a young girl in the slums of Dublin, contending with a sick mother, an alcoholic father and, later, exploitation at the hands of the Catholic Church.

So far, so clichéd, but it also happens to be the truth, and Bradley stages some familiar scenarios well.

Newcomer Gloria Cramer Curtis is a joy as the young Christina, capturing the right blend of fiery rebellion and childish vulnerability to bring the character to life. Liam Cunningham is typically solid as her violent, drunken dad, whose inherently caring nature is torpedoed by alcoholism.

Elsewhere, the presence of Father Ted's Pauline McLynn as a cartoonishly nasty nun doesn't really work, possibly because you're always expecting her to dish out cups of tea rather than slaps to the face.

Noble's was not a happy childhood, nor has her adult life been a walk in the park, and Bradley – who also wrote the screenplay – cuts back and forth between 1950s Ireland, England in the 1960s and more recent times in Vietnam.

There's not a lot of difference, to be honest, with suffering and abuse of power rife across all eras and locales.

But more than the grimness of the situations, Noble gets under your skin because of the titular heroine's heartfelt desire to do good, against all odds.

A religious woman, despite her troubles with the church, Noble is inspired by a dream to go to Ho Chi Minh City to help Vietnam's street children. From the minute she strides into her hotel and makes short work of a hostile receptionist, it's clear the blonde-haired Irishwoman is not to be messed with, and she ultimately achieves her goal.

Deirdre O'Kane and Sarah Greene – who portray the character's adult years – capture her sense of resolve, as well as her darkly humorous streak. They're ably supported by a cast of Irish, British and Vietnamese talent.

Yet, unlike its namesake, Noble the film is a slight piece of work.

It also has the occasional overwrought moment that seems to have come from another picture altogether.

But it would be hard to go too far wrong with subject matter like this, and ultimately, Noble does exactly what a biopic should – make you want to find out more about the person concerned.

Three stars

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph