3.5 out of 5 stars
“I think that, if you have faith, and you do what's right, and you keep doing it, and you give your life to it, you will succeed and you will change the nature of life on the planet. I really believe that.” - Judy Wood
In our world, those people who quietly sacrifice and live for the betterment of others are rarely celebrated. This could be credited to the fact that these individuals do not have time for recognition, but would rather be serving others. The story of immigration attorney Judy Wood’s life seems to convey that this is how this woman prefers to live.
As a single mother and accomplished lawyer, Judy (Michelle Monaghan) does all that she can to provide for her son and serve her clients. The pair have to move to Los Angeles at her ex-husband’s request to spend more time with his son. After establishing herself in New Mexico as one of the foremost defence attorneys, Judy must start over at Ray Hernandez’s (Alfred Molina) immigration law practice. She must develop her own client base and help to bring in more income to the firm, but her compassionate heart gets in the way.
Ms Wood does develop a reputation for the most difficult of immigration cases, which means few of them can pay for her services. As she builds up hundreds of clients, it is one that will determine the fate of her career and the life of women around the world. It is the plight of a young Afghan woman named Asefa (Leem Lubany) that grabs the attorney’s attention. She was a teacher of girls in Afghanistan who was arrested and abused for her acts against god. Upon her release from captivity, the young woman escapes to Pakistan. She then eventually makes her way to the United States where she is ultimately put into prison in California for being an illegal immigrant and this is where the stories of these two courageous women cross.
A key element that stands out about his film is the single-mindedness and determination that Judy Wood has for those she serves. Traits that lead her to being an excellent attorney, but do leave glaring issues in her capabilities to care for her business and her family. This story manages to show that she is far from being a perfect woman, but a person who was ideally suited for her place and role in history. Michelle Monaghan manages to portray the passion and fight that seem to drive this inspirational, albeit flawed example in the battle for humanity.
Most inspirational films tend to make the central character into a super-human example that is unattainable to the rest of us. Director Sean Hanish provides warts and all experience with Wood’s story while delivering an entertaining depiction of the life of the attorney. The dialogue can be cumbersome at times and many of her clients come off as caricatures of their culture, but this does not distract from the end product. Saint Judy is a timely and inspiring tale at this time in history that should be celebrated by audiences around the world.
Reel Dialogue: Our response to the immigrant
There are a multitude of thoughts being pushed around on the internet about the refugee and the immigrant. In the heat of this discussion, it might be easy to miss how God has a heart for the poor, afflicted and oppressed. The journey of the foreigner in foreign lands has been around since the beginning of human history. Which begs society to consider how to respond to the needs of those who cross into new lands for the hope of a new life.
There has been a multitude of books, debates and films on the subject. What did Jesus have to say about it? He claims that he did not come for the healthy but rather for the sick (Matthew 9:12), and the apostle Paul affirms this teaching that the church is made up of the outcasts, “not many wise, not many powerful, not many of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
Like their God who loves them, the followers of Christ ought to have a special, irrepressible desire for the poor and the outcasts of this world.