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Film / North Country

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North Country is a 2005 drama film directed by Niki Caro and inspired by a real-life class action lawsuit from 1988.

The story begins with Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) leaving her abusive husband with her two children. Because she has no job perspectives, she is forced to move back in with her parents in her Minnesota hometown. There she meets her old friend Glory (Frances McDormand), who helps her get a job at the local iron mine and lets Josey and her children stay with her and her husband Kyle (Sean Bean).

On her first day at work, Josey is harassed by her co-worker and old high school boyfriend (Jeremy Renner). Josey quickly finds out that the female workers are being verbally and physically abused by men who feel like they are taking away their jobs. When Josey refuses to keep quiet like the rest of the women, things get ugly for her.

The title is based on the Bob Dylan song "Girl from the North Country".

This film shows examples of:

  • Accomplice by Inaction: Ricky is constantly shown to be uncomfortable by what the others do to the women and does, but never tells them off for it or tries to stop them (except for the outhouse incident), or speaks up in their defense even when asked to. He Grew a Spine at the end though, and is one of those to stand up and support Josey's claims in court.
  • The Alleged Expert: In a Deleted Scene, the former big-city lawyer who is helping Josey with her sexual harassment suit reveals that he specializes in convincing people to accept settlements and has never argued a case before a judge before. He still wins the case.
  • Amoral Attorney: Slightly averted. The lawyer representing the mine comes off as this at first, but it's later revealed that she actually wants the mine to take a plea because she knows the loss will be great and shows some faint distaste for Pierson.
  • Based on a True Story: In 1988, the first class-action sexual harassment lawsuit in the U.S. was filed on behalf of Lois Jenson and other female workers against the EVTAC iron mine.
  • Blatant Lies: Just about anyone testifying in the mine's defense utters nothing but this. Also the meeting chairman takes the microphone away from Josey, during her speech, citing a non-existent three-minute limitation before she's even had three minutes to talk.
  • Broken Bird: Cherry, who experiences a lot of the same stuff as Josey but becomes more withdrawn by it rather than angry, at least until the end of the movie.
  • Brutal Honesty: Pearson telling his lawyer that he only hired her because he wants a woman arguing the mine's case, and that he has no personal respect for her.
  • Child by Rape: Josey's son Sammy was born as a result of her rape at the hands of one of her high school teachers. He's unaware of this until she reveals the truth when her past is brought up in an attempt to discredit her during the trial.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: In a deleted scene, Bill tells Josey that he's never actually taken a case to trial before, and instead specialized on getting a settlement beforehand.
  • Dirty Coward: Josey's high school boyfriend Bobby witnessed her being raped by the teacher, but panicked and never told anyone, even when the whole town shamed her for having a baby out of wedlock. Lampshaded when Kyle refers to him as a "Yellow Ice" player in hockey compared to a "Red Ice" one who'd stay and fight.
  • Female Misogynist:
    • Peg is as much of a victim as the others at the mine, but shows no sympathy for them, accusing Cherry and Josey of asking for it, while insulting her efforts to garner support and lying on the stand that there was no harassment. While some of this could be excused by a need to keep her job, she also looks a bit amused when Josey is being attacked on the stands, as well as flabbergasted and upset when people start standing to join the class action and confirm Josey's claims, something Peg herself refuses to do.
    • Bobby's wife is willing to believe his victim blaming and throw some pretty ugly and pretty public insults at Josey as a result.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Josey's former teacher walks into the courtroom as a subpoenaed witness, Josey stutters her words and her facial expression change to a frightened reaction.
    • The lawyer asking Josey who is Sammy's father. Then her teacher walks into the courtroom.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: The bespectacled mine supervisor Pavich makes absolutely no effort to reign in people like Earl and responds to any sexual harassment complaints with cold indifference and speeches about how the women don't belong there.
  • Get Out!: When the mines lawyer tries to get Glory to sign an ffadvait saying Cherry is lying, Kyle tells her to leave, while Gliry puts her new artificial larynx to her throat and says "Fuck you."
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: After a talk with Kyle and trying to understand his mother's side of things, Sammy listens to his mother Josey talk about when she was pregnant with him and she admitted that she never wanted him. She feared that every day that her belly got bigger, it would remind her of the rape committed by her teacher. But for whatever reason, she never considered having an abortion. Though it's possible she grew to love her child regardless.
  • Ignored Expert: The mine's lawyer advises Pearson of just how much humiliation and monetary loss he stands to experience if Josey does win, he just shrugs it off and confidently says that she won't.
  • Jerkass Realization: If Hank doesn't experience this when his wife moves out, fed up with his condoning the treatment of their daughter and the others, then he gets it listening to Josey being verbally abused at the meeting.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: After hearing of Josie's backstory of being raped by her teacher, it's rewarding to watch that same teacher getting strangled and punched by Josie's father Hank in the courtroom.
  • Mean Boss: Pavich and Pearson are cold-hearted, misogynistic figures who do nothing to protect the women and insult or threaten them whenever they try to stop the abuse.
  • Nice Guy: Kyle (Sean Bean Playing Against Type) and Bill.
  • Overturned Outhouse: Played for Drama when Josey's Jerkass co-workers tip over a port-a-potty while she's inside.
  • Parental Substitute: Kyle becomes one to Sammy towards the end.
  • Pedo Hunt: Hank's appropriate reaction when he (and everyone else) learn in the courtroom that Josey was actually raped at 16 by her teacher. He gets up from his seat, walks over and attacks the same teacher present.
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Earl, one of the worst coworkers, who utterly remorselessly and gleefully gropes women, throws around cruel and vulgar taunts while chuckling smugly, gives Bobby an alibi for his near-rape of Josey with conspiratorial joviality, writes misogynistic graffiti everywhere, overturns the outhouse, paints the women restroom falls with excrement and masturbates on Cherry's uniform.
  • Rape as Backstory: As Josie tells everyone in the courtroom what really happened and who was Sammy's father, flashbacks show how Josie became pregnant at 16. She was actually raped by one of her teachers.
  • Shaming the Mob: Hank calls out all of the mine workers for disrespecting Josey at the meeting.
  • Slut-Shaming: Josey is shunned by the town for her out-of-wedlock pregnancy and is still so when she returns to town years later — even the lawyer representing the mine brings this up during the trial. Her supposed bad reputation makes it easy for the townspeople to side against her when she files the lawsuit.
  • Smug Snake: Pearson refuses to settle, displaying smug complacency about the runnings of his company and confident that some female workers won't be able to stop him. Earl and Bobby throw also throw around all sorts of abuse, utterly confident of their ability to get away with it.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Josey was 16 when she had her son. Who was the result of Josey having been raped by her high school teacher.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Once people start joining Josey's class action Pearson has a confused frown on his face, Pavich rubs his forehead with a sigh, and Bobby starts blinking nervously.
  • World of Jerkass: Aside from Joesy, Kyle, Bill and Glory, every other character is over the top unlikable.