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The Secret Scripture

At the end of your life, what will you remember?

Rooney as: Roseanne ‘Rose’ McNulty
Genre(s): Drama
Written by: Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson, Sebastian Barry (novel)
Directed by: Jim Sheridan
Other Cast: Jack Reynor, Theo James, Vanessa Redgrave, Eric Bana
Release Date: October 13, 2017 (Limited)
Production Budget:
Total Worldwide Gross: $694k
Filming Locations: County Wicklow and County Dublin, Ireland

  • Lady Rose (Vanessa Redgrave) is an elderly woman who has lived in a hospital for over 50 years. Despite her bleak surroundings there is a light in her eyes that cannot be extinguished. Dr. Stephen Grene (Eric Bana) is drawn to her, compelled to discover her past and help gain her freedom. Through Lady Rose’s ‘scripture’, a life of extraordinary love and great injustice emerges, revealing a remarkable young woman of courage, whose only crime was to fall in love. Set against a backdrop of troubled times locally, and chaos internationally, we learn of her ultimate triumph.

    Production Info

  • Jonathan Rhys Meyers was initially cast as Father Gaunt but he dropped out after the project was delayed. Theo James later replaced him.
  • Based on Sebastian Barry’s novel of the same name.
  • Jessica Chastain was originally set to play the role of young Rose, but was replaced by Rooney Mara in July 2014.
  • Quoting: Rooney Mara

    On Rose’s downfall: I think similar things happen to many women in different contexts. Certainly back then in Ireland, religion was a source of a lot of tension and within the community she happens to live in – she’s outnumbered. Being Protestant makes her the odd one out. But I don’t think necessarily that if she were Catholic she wouldn’t also have been locked up. I think that it’s more her being a beautiful and dangerous young girl who’s driving all these men mad.

    On Rose’s relationships with male characters: I think a lot of them have genuine feelings towards her; they’ve never really encountered anyone like her before… there is this attraction to her that they’ve maybe never felt before. I don’t think it’s just sexual – it’s also the way about her, and her mind, and her personality. Part of the attraction to her is that she’s not really someone that you could control–she definitely has a little fight in her. They’re attracted to that spirit of freedom.

    On her attraction to the role: She was just such a complex female character and because of how many different stages there are – so many different stories – within the story. So, there’s really a lot to work with and to play with, and a lot of different colors to bring to it as an actor.

    Critical Response

    Allan Hunter, Screen International: A raven-haired Rooney Mara has the look of a young Jean Simmons or the wildness of a Kathleen Byron and is very convincing as a woman of the 1940s whose only sin is attracting the attention of men. Rose is too much to handle for a small town fond of gossip and eager to condemn.

    Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter: World War II is hardly out of sight; RAF planes swoop overhead — caught, in Krichman’s fluent framing, between Rose’s upturned face and the gray sky. Air force pilot Michael McNulty (Jack Reynor), a local boy who had already caught her eye, will fall from that sky, crash-landing into the woods, and Rose will hide him from the IRA gang who regard him as the enemy. A profoundly romantic friendship, love and marriage quickly unfold between them. Their precarious idyll is beautifully directed and played — has the screen ever given Mara a chance to beam so unhesitatingly? Their bond is all the more powerful for how short-lived it will prove, and how violently the lovers will be punished for their happiness.

    Robbie Collin, The Telegraph: The opening act is enticing and handsomely staged, with images that play up the lead actress’s enigmatic qualities that made her so endlessly watchable in films as diverse as Side Effects, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Carol. We get Mara looking pensive on a bus, Mara smiling in front of loaves of bread, and so on.

    Jordan Ruimy, The Film Stage: With all that to consider, you’d also think Sheridan and Mara teaming up for The Secret Scripture, an adaptation of Sebastian Barry‘s beloved novel of the same name, could be a recipe for success. However, the result falls flat and all too conventional for the talent involved. The problem lies more in Sheridan’s direction than in Mara’s acting, which is to say that she does deliver another good performance here, but everything else does her talent a major disservice.

    Sam Fragoso, The Wrap: Rooney Mara plays the younger Roseanne, fiercely independent in a time when women could hardly vote, let alone talk back to a man. As per usual, Mara owns every scene she’s in. Few modern actresses can control the cadence of a moment like Mara; she exudes minimal energy and eschews histrionics. It’s all in her facial expressions and intonations. One closeup by Sheridan on Mara can reveal all you need to know about her character.