SAINT JUDY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Saint Judy is a true-life tale of a female crusader, a legal eagle named Judy Wood who is responsible for a landmark case that strives to protect female immigrants who seek asylum in the U.S. to avoid persecution and possible death in their homelands. While we have seen this sort of high-minded advocate before, most recently in On the Basis of Sex and in another era in Erin Brockovich, this one has a couple things extra going for it. First is the presence of Michelle Monaghan, a truly under-rated actress who somehow avoids turning her Judy into a do-gooder bore. But even more so, the movie could not be timelier in counter-acting the demonization of those looking for a safe haven and a better life in the United States of America.

Yes, there is legal jargon to deal with as divorcee Wood moves from New Mexico to Los Angeles so her young son can be closer to his dad. There, she gets a job at a law clinic that specializes in immigration cases led by Alfred Molina’s jaded lawyer, who is more interested in paying for college tuition for his kids than he is being a savior to the downtrodden. And, yes, her child is often left to his own devices given the hours she devotes to her cause – the film comes this close to making her feel guilt-ridden by being wed to her work, a burden few male characters ever have to bear.

But much can be overlooked once Monaghan joins forces with Leem Lubany, a Palestinian actress who packs a mighty presence onscreen despite her petite size, as an Afghan woman seeking asylum while being threatened with deportation – an act that would lead to certain death. When we first see Asefa, she is in detention, in a drugged-out zombie-like state, a condition imposed by administrators and doctors to keep her stable. But Wood fights to help her find her way out of the fog after learning she was a teacher in her homeland before the Taliban came after her for schooling young girls.

From there, it is up to some terrific acting by Alfre Woodward as a judge that presides over Asefa’s case and Common as a prosecutor who comes to believe in Wood’s fight to protect Asefa to keep us engaged. But the one compelling moment that totally sold me on Saint Judy was when Monaghan and Lubany share a silent connection as they look into each other’s eyes and grasp each other’s hands before they face the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Amen to that kind of sisterhood.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Saint Judy is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for March, 2019

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.