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October 17, 2004
Movie Review: Therese

The First Mate and I went out to church this afternoon and followed Mass with a screening of the new movie Threse, the biopic of the Catholic saint nicknamed "The Little Flower". The FM had looked forward to the movie opening in our area as Threse is the saint which she admires the most -- an unassuming young girl whose saintliness expressed itself in the many small acts of faith she did.

I'd like to say lots of nice things about this film, whose heart definitely is in the right place. The filmmakers treat their subject quite respectfully -- in fact, too much so, to the extent that the film fails to work. Threse lost her mother when she was very little, and as a result wound up being doted upon by her entire family. She became a bit spoiled, as youngest children often are, and a bit willful. At 12, she experienced an epiphany when her father forgot to put candies in her slippers for Christmas morning and she had a right crying fit. She became filled with the Holy Spirit, and from that moment dedicated her life to helping others.

Unfortunately, the film chose to paint Threse as a saint almost from birth, making the epiphanic moment completely ineffective. Lindsay Younce also plays Threse from grade school onward, confusing the ages when she goes through her life-changing moments, and also confusing why she acts so immature at moments when you'd expect her to be a bit more sophisticated, for lack of a better word. When she finds out that Father Christmas is really her father (from the comment that she's too old for the charade), I nodded my head vigorously, not knowing she was supposed to be 12.

Also distracting were a number of technical issues with the film, which obviously was made on a shoestring budget. Much of the print we watched was grainy and occasionally out of focus. The camerawork was notably poor; in several scenes, the tops of heads were cut off. In low-budget films, especially those produced by religious organizations, the audience doesn't need art from the cinematography, but it shouldn't be so poor as to distract ... and this was.

On a more positive note, the acting was pretty good. Younce was very convincing as Threse, especially later on during her time as a Carmelite novice and nun. Leonardo Defilippis turns in a marvelous and understated performance as her father, and Linda Hayden is very effective as her oldest sister who became a second mother to Threse. The rest of the cast aren't quite as effective but at least do not distract from the story itself.

** SPOILERS! **

The end of the movie, as Threse dies at a young age (at which age, the movie never makes clear, but it's 24), really touches the heart, and makes the entire experience worthwhile -- as long as you know it won't be a professional and skilled product. In fact, in some ways, it carries more impact for its earnest, amateurish production. I wish it had been done just a bit better and included a few more people with skill; it could have been a classic. The public clearly hungers for well-made films that focus on faith and sacrifice, as the showing we saw at 1:20 on a Sunday afternoon was almost sold out. Maybe that may convince other filmmakers to put more effort into truly uplifting material like the story of Threse of Lisieux.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 17, 2004 10:12 AM

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