MPAA Rating: Not rated at this time of this review
USCCB Rating: Not rated at this time of this review
Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 reels
Although she probably never envisioned it, Faustina Kowalska (Kamila Kaminska) is one of greatest saints of the 20th century. This simple nun became the instrument to bring the endless mercy of God to a century ravaged by countless horrors. Love and Mercy: Faustina brilliantly uses the odd genre of docudrama to bring this story to life.
Despite its title, however, St. Faustina is only part of the story. The protagonist is Jesus Himself, who uses numerous people to bring about the image and feast of Divine Mercy.
From the time Faustina was a young child, she felt a call to devote her life to God. Beginning in her teenage years, she received visions of heavenly figures and engaged in conversations with Jesus. After becoming a nun, Jesus asked her to make a specific image of his Divine Mercy. Working with a secular artist and her spiritual director Fr. Michal Sopocko (Maciej Malysa), they create a painting of Jesus exposing his heart with two rays of light, one red and one white. Despite being asked by Jesus to start a religious order devoted to His mercy, Faustina died on October 5, 1938 of tuberculosis at the age 33. It would be up to Sopocko to carry on the cause, though he too would have great difficulties.
Today, the Church universally celebrates the Feast of Divine Mercy the Sunday after Easter, and Faustina was canonized in 2000 by Pope St. John Paul II, one of her greatest advocates.
Docudrama is a difficult genre to pull off successfully. It involves seamlessly splicing together both feature biographical drama with contemporary documentary interviews. What helps make Love and Mercy unique is that many events are recent enough to be remembered by the audience. I myself met John Paul II once when I was 14, and he was close friends with Fr. Sopocko. This gives the film a sense of immediacy without the distance of historical time. It feels present and accessible, neither rushed nor lagging.
The first thought that came after watching the film was how good it would be as an educational tool. From beginning to end, it is filled with compelling information without ever being labored or preachy. For example, the face of Jesus in the original Divine Mercy image perfectly matches the features and proportions of Shroud of Turin. Everything in the image has meaning from the directions of Jesus’ eyes to the void of the background to the gestures of the hands. Like the Shroud and the Tilma of Our Lady, it is both an icon of theological instruction and a miraculous witness to God’s power.
It was also wise to make the film centered on the concept of Divine Mercy rather than a straight biography. When Faustina passes away, the film is not yet even halfway finished. The story of her spiritual director and his struggles to promote the devotion are just as compelling. Throughout all these experiences, the audience can see the intense desire of God to bring His mercy to the world despite obstacles that come His way. We are blessed that God continues in every generation to bring private revelations as an assistance to our faith.
I’ve seen my lion’s share of poorly constructed and ill-conceived religiously themed movies that are passed off as acceptable only because they aren’t secular or morally offensive. Fortunately, contemporary filmmakers have got the message that just being “religious” isn’t enough; the quality must be excellent. From short one-man YouTube videos to large scale Hollywood blockbusters, we are living in a golden age of Christian cinema, and the prize isn’t Oscars or Emmys but the souls of world.
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