There are plenty of unsung heroes who deserve to have their story receive the big screen treatment. The story of Christina Noble’s journey from poverty to helping hundreds of thousands of children in Vietnam and Mongolia is one of those stories. It’s invigorating to see a life’s course worth telling that can inspire the average person to take action no matter what’s happened in their past.
Too many biopics have a cookie cut formula that sensationalizes rather than presents a universal story. Writer/director Stephen Bradley skillfully jumps through time showing the young and present day (1989) Christina Noble (Deirdre O’Kane), weaving the two together in a way that allows the audience to draw parallels that resonate at a core level. In truth, perhaps Christina’s backstory is as compelling as her present day work in the film. She shares a similar upbringing as the children she is trying to help.
Christina loses her mother at a young age, and her unreliable father, Thomas (Liam Cunningham), crumbles even more under the loss. This forces her to comb trash cans for food and sing on street corners for change in order to help provide for her siblings. Before she reaches adulthood, she becomes pregnant from a violent rape which results in her being housed in a convent. After her son’s birth, she is separated from him after the nuns give him up for adoption. Christina then flees to Ireland to live with her best friend Joan (Ruth Negga), and eventually marries Mario (David Mumeni) who turns out to be abusive.
When Christina visits Vietnam in 1989 and sees “street kids” doing the same thing she used to do, she tries to help them. When she spots tourist David Somers (Mark Huberman) trying to intoxicate and sexually abuse a ten year old Vietnamese girl, she springs into action. These incidents relate so closely to Christina's past, and yet as an adult she can make some things right for the innocent lives who can't protect themselves. Ultimately, she sets out on a mission to bring housing, education, and medicine to the youth of Vietnam.
Christina is comfortable in her skin, and it’s thick, built off of her life’s circumstances. She talks to God in a way that is rarely seen, with blunt honesty and openness. It’s a refreshing look at an average person who refuses to succumb to life’s challenges, but uses it as fuel to give others a chance at a better life.
Deirdre O’Kane brings grace and strength to the role. Her performance makes you want to Google the real life Christina Noble! The supporting cast all turn in great performances that elevate the words on the page into something real.
While the film gets off to a slow start, the set up makes for a triumphant ending. Perhaps more importantly, it makes you think about your own life, and how you’ve used it. It’s a great reminder, that you can start with something small and turn it into something bigger than you ever imagined! "Noble" hits select theaters May 8th.