Film Review by Kam Williams
Reverential Biopic Chronicling the Life and Times of Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson) was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Kosovo on August 26, 1910. At the age of 12, she already expressed an interest in becoming a nun in order to minister to the poor in Calcutta.
A half-dozen years later, she abandoned Albania for Ireland to enter the convent of the Sisters of Loreto. After completing her novitiate in Darjeeling near the Himalayan mountains, she took her vows in 1931 and began her career as a teacher at a Catholic high school for girls.
However, her original calling continued to nag at Teresa, so she soon prevailed upon her Mother Superior (Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal) for permission to relocate to Calcutta. That would depend upon a special dispensation from the Vatican, because of her prior promise to remain cloistered in a monastery and to not move among the masses of the great unwashed.
Eventually, Teresa was not only allowed to leave the Sisters of Loreto but to found her own order in Calcutta, the Missionaries of Charity. Over the ensuing decades, its ranks would swell to 4,000 with convents in 100 countries.
Written and directed by William Riead, The Letters is a reverential biopic paying homage to the pious patron saint of the poor, sick and dying. The movie’s title is based on her half-century long exchange of intimate missives with her confidant and spiritual adviser, Father Celeste van Exem (Max von Sydow)
Despite the accolades and fanfare the high-profile icon ultimately attracted, the production aspires to drive home the point that this humble servant of the Lord never let herself be distracted from her appointed rounds. “I am just a pencil in God’s hand,” she explained. Nevertheless, she would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and canonized posthumously by Pope John Paul II in 2003.
Faith-oriented fare designed to appeal to the choir it’s clearly preaching to.
Good (2 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes
Running time: 118 minutes
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing