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review

Stephanie Gil, Lúcia Moniz and Maribel Lopera Sierra star in Fatima, based on the story of Lúcia de Jesus Rosa dos Santos.Claudio Iannone/Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

  • Fatima
  • Directed by Marco Pontecorvo
  • Written by Valerio D’Annunzio, Barbara Nicolosi and Marco Pontecorvo
  • Starring Stephanie Gil, Goran Visnjic and Harvey Keitel
  • Classification PG; 113 minutes

Rating:

1.5 out of 4 stars


It is hard to measure the cinematic bona fides of any movie rolling out of a faith-based film factory. How do you critique a director’s vision if their defining purpose is to proselytize? It is not as if these kinds of films offer gentle nudges toward morality or leisurely melodrama where you can pick and choose which worthy lessons (familial responsibility, honesty, kindness) to take away. As the new drama Fatima posits, the only true answer is Christ. Accept Him, or go to Hell.

I guess I’m off to the underworld, then, as I sat stone-faced and unbelieving throughout director Marco Pontecorvo’s tale of a 10-year-old girl named Lucia who says she communicated with the Virgin Mary in First World War-era Portugal. Based on real events, in a way – Lúcia de Jesus Rosa dos Santos is currently on her way to canonization in the Catholic Church – the film is essentially dogma. While Pontecorvo and his two co-writers could have used the incident as a way to explore the complexities and mechanics of faith, they’re solely interested in a very specific faith and use Lucia’s life and times to castigate anyone who dares not accept the power of Christ. (A cheap structural device that has Harvey Keitel’s journalist attempt to debunk Lucia’s account acts an insincere concession to skeptics.)

Harvey Keitel does his best to elevate the material.Armanda Claro/Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

It could have, I suppose, been worse. Pontecorvo, a long-time cinematographer who has shot a handful of Game of Thrones episodes, films the tale handsomely. And his internationally recognizable cast works overtime attempting to elevate the material, with not only Keitel trying his best, but Goran Visnjic and Joaquim de Almeida preaching to the choir with gusto.

I also appreciated the film’s quick glimpse of Hell itself, which Lucia is plunged into as a warning to whose who won’t accept salvation. With its cheap CGI demons and soundtrack of wailing souls, it was unintentional comedy of the highest order. If you need me, I’ll be laughing all the way to Hades.

Fatima opens in select theatres and digitally on-demand starting Aug. 28

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