North Country (film)

North Country
NorthCountryPoster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNiki Caro
Produced byNick Wechsler
Written byMichael Seitzman
Based onClass Action
by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler
Starring
Music byGustavo Santaolalla
CinematographyChris Menges
Edited byDavid Coulson
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • September 12, 2005 (2005-09-12) (TIFF)
  • October 21, 2005 (2005-10-21)
Running time
126 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$35 million[2]
Box office$25.2 million[2]

North Country is a 2005 American drama film directed by Niki Caro, starring Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sean Bean, Richard Jenkins, Michelle Monaghan, Jeremy Renner, Woody Harrelson, and Sissy Spacek. The screenplay by Michael Seitzman was inspired by the 2002 book Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler, which chronicled the case of Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Company.

Plot

In 1989, Josey Aimes flees from her abusive husband back to her hometown in northern Minnesota with her children, Sammy and Karen, and moves in with her parents, Alice and Hank. Hank is ashamed of Josey, who had Sammy as a teenager by an unknown father, and believes Josey is promiscuous. While working a job washing hair, Josey reconnects with an old acquaintance, Glory Dodge, who works at the local iron mine and suggests Josey do the same, as a job there pays six times more than what Josey's making now. Josey's pursuit of the job further strains her relationship with Hank, who also works at the mine and believes women shouldn't be working there, so she and her children move in with Glory and her husband, Kyle.

Josey quickly befriends several other female workers at the mine and soon realizes the women are constant targets for sexual harassment and humiliation by most of their male co-workers, who, like Hank, believe the women are taking jobs more appropriate for men. Josey in particular is targeted by Bobby Sharp, an old friend from high school. Josey tries to talk to her supervisor, Arlen Pavich, about the problem, but he refuses to take her concerns seriously. The women experience additional harassment in retaliation, and Bobby spreads rumors that Josey attempted to seduce him, leading his wife to publicly berate and embarrass Josey at Sammy's hockey game. Sammy begins to resent the way the townspeople treat them and comes to believe the gossip about his mother's alleged promiscuity.

Josey takes her concerns to the mine's owner, Don Pearson, but despite his previous assurances that he is there to help, she arrives to find that he has invited Pavich to the meeting, along with several other executives and offers to accept her resignation immediately. She refuses, and after Pearson implies he believes the rumors about her promiscuity, leaves devastated. Later, after being sexually assaulted by Bobby at work, she quits and asks Bill White, a lawyer friend of Kyle and Glory, to help her file a lawsuit against the company. Bill advises her to recruit other women to form a class action lawsuit, which would be the first of its kind. The female miners, however, fear losing their jobs and facing additional harassment, so Josey attempts to go ahead with the case alone. She also discovers that Glory has Lou Gehrig's Disease, and her health is declining rapidly.

Alice and Hank argue over Josey's lawsuit, and when Hank still refuses to forgive his daughter, Alice leaves him. At a union meeting, Josey attempts to address the miners and explain her reasons for suing the mine, but they constantly interrupt and insult her, leading Hank to stand up for his daughter and reprimand his co-workers for their treatment of Josey and all the women at the mine. He and Alice then reconcile. In court, the mining company's attorney attempts to hold Josey's sexual history against her, based on Bobby's testimony that Sammy is the result of a consensual sexual relationship between Josey and her high school teacher, Mr. Lattavansky. Josey then reveals that after school one day, where she and Bobby had been serving detention together after being caught kissing, she was raped by Mr. Lattavansky, which led to her pregnancy and eventually Sammy's birth.

Hank attacks the teacher in question, who is in attendance, and Bill asks for a recess after Josey storms out of the courtroom. Sammy still refuses to believe his mother and runs away, until Kyle urges him to reconsider, and he and Josey embrace after having a talk. The next day, Bill cross-examines Bobby and gets him to admit he lied about the encounter, which he witnessed but was too scared to do anything about. Glory, who has come to the court in her wheelchair and is unable to speak, has Kyle read a letter saying she stands with Josey. Other women then stand up to support Josey's complaint. They are followed by more women, family members, and miners, which allows the case to qualify as a class action. The mining company is forced to both pay the women for their suffering and establish a sexual harassment policy at the workplace.

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