The problem with inspirational biopics is keeping the person at the center of the story relatable and realistic rather than deifying them. Christina Noble’s story is eminently — almost heartbreakingly — grounded, and the aptly titled Noble is that much more powerful for it. Growing up poor in 1950s Dublin, Christina (Gloria Cramer Curtis) is sent to an orphanage at age ten following the death of her consumptive mother (Derbhle Crotty) and abandonment by her worthless drunk of a father (Game of Thrones‘ Liam Cunningham).
And then things get (more) unpleasant: Cruel nuns, sexual assault, and an abusive husband follow, driving Christina, improbably, to Vietnam, where she would eventually establish a foundation to help orphaned children. Noble jumps back and forth between Christina’s early years and her first forays to Southeast Asia, prompted by news broadcasts showing wartime atrocities and reminding her, at her lowest point, that there are others worse off than she is.
The message isn’t just that being poor sucks, but that being poor and a woman, or a child, is basically the worst thing ever. I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t The O’Blind Side. The movie works because Christina’s desire to help these kids feels natural, and because she herself shoulders burdens that would drive most people to the grave, all without losing her faith.
She acquires improbable allies on her mission, including a Ho Chi Minh City orphanage manager (Nhu Quynh Nguyen) and a surprisingly non-fiendish Irish oil executive (Brendan Coyle). Things tie up a little neatly, Coldplay song and all, but excellent performances keep her story truly inspiring. These days, we’ll take all the help we can get.