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Strong performances characterize new Fatima movie

The film is a beautifully acted telling of Mary’s apparitions at Fatima, aimed at audiences unfamiliar with the story.

Stephanie Gil stars in a scene from the movie "Fatima." (CNS photo/Claudio Iannone, courtesy PICTUREHOUSE)

MPAA Rating: PG-13
USCCB Rating: NR
Reel Rating: 3 out of 5

There have already been several film adaptations of the Fatima apparitions, among the most recent being 2009’s The 13th Day—an unusual, experimental interpretation made by devout Catholics that felt like it was filmed entirely in front of a green screen. This summer’s Fatima is a more traditional telling of the story from Picturehouse, a secular distributor of independent films.

This is a bit of a double-edged sword. The film is more approachable for those with no knowledge of Sister Lucia, Portugal, or the Third Secret, but Catholics already familiar with the Fatima story may find this telling lacking in depth and detail.

The film is framed as an interview between an elderly Sr. Lucia Santos (Sônia Braga) and skeptical journalist Professor Nichols (Harvey Keitel). The story unfolds in a series of long flashbacks in which Lucia recounts her experiences of the apparitions; Lucia as a young girl is played by Stephanie Gil.

Most CWR readers are probably familiar with the story and many of the details the Fatima apparitions. Fatima hits all the major points: Mary appears each month, word spreads, the authorities—and Lucia’s own mother—don’t believe the stories, and the narrative concludes with the Miracle of the Sun. The telling of the story here is straight-forward without embellishment, and the “interview,” spread throughout the film, amounts to only a few minutes of screen-time.

The big advantage that Fatima has over its predecessors is the acting. Nearly every performance is stellar. I was especially impressed with Joana Ribeiro’s performance as the Blessed Mother. She is stunningly beautiful and gives the best portrayal of Mary I’ve seen since The Passion of the Christ. She is firm in her instructions to the children but also gentle in her encouragement. Also remarkable is Lucia Moniz as Lucia’s mother. She doesn’t believe in her daughter’s visions, but her doubt comes not from hatred of the faith but from genuine love. She wants her daughter to avoid offending God, and tries to keep her from the potential harm of being a seer.

The only actor American audiences will recognize is Keitel, a regular for directors Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. He does a fine job as a nonbeliever foil to Sister Lucia, but unfortunately has so little screen-time that I doubt he was on set longer than a day or two.

The message that Mary brings to the children is peace, but Catholic viewers may notice some familiar details of the Fatima message aren’t here. Yes, there is mention of the Rosary and a brief vision of Hell, but there are also noticeable omissions, such as the call for Russia’s consecration. In Fatima, Catholicism is the atmosphere for a miracle rather than the center. The filmmakers likely made these decisions in an effort to introduce the story to non-Catholic and non-Christian audiences unfamiliar with it; a universal message of peace and a call to Faith in the face of unbelief—represented here by atheistic civil authorities—is the film’s final take-away.

Fatima gives a good introduction, beautifully acted, for audiences new to the Fatima story. Catholics looking for richer detail or deeper insight into Our Lady’s messages there may find themselves somewhat dissatisfied.

Related at CWR: “Director of Fatima film: ‘I think we achieved something believable.'” By Steven D. Greydanus (August 22, 2020)


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About Nick Olszyk 143 Articles
Nick Olszyk teaches theology at Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Oregon. He was raised on bad science fiction movies, jelly beans, and TV shows that make fun of bad science fiction movies. Visit him online at his website, Catholic Cinema Crusade.

17 Comments

  1. is there a real lack of Sister Lucia, the 3rd secret, etc?? If so this is not a might, it is a definitive absence and wrong…charity rejoices in the Truth, please rejoice in it and share that it is much more than a bit of a double-edge sword and definitively lacking in the truths Heaven made essential and perennial, blessed and necessary. Thank you, blessings of the Lord and our Lady!!

    This is a bit of a double-edged sword. The film is more approachable for those with no knowledge of Sister Lucia, Portugal, or the Third Secret, but Catholics already familiar with the Fatima story may find this telling lacking in depth and detail.

  2. I find it hard to believe this director, given his past and given his comments in various interviews can make a film accurate to the miracle of Fatima. Additionally, we have all been treated to actors/actresses disavowing religious films in front of secular audiences once the publicity for the religious film fades and they are on to their next project. Harvey Keitel, for example, appeared as Judas Iscariot in the execrable “Last Temptation of Christ.” The devil, unlike God, does not work in mysterious ways: he is a straightforward of temptation and seduction towards evil.

  3. I will probably see the movie, however the idea of not telling the whole story makes it less appealing to me. I think, even if it is controversial for non Catholics to learn about the third secret, Mary’s showing of hell to the 3 children etc, it provides a starting point for discussion and maybe imputus to learm more about Fatima, Mary and the Catholic Faith.

    This idea of not presenting the whole story, seems a continuation of the post Vativan II philosophy of watering down the Catholic faith. It’s not good for Catholics and I do not think it is fair to someone who is not Catholic who want to kmow the whole story.

  4. I listened to an interview with Fr. Malachi Martin who had been allowed to read the 3rd secret of Fátima. Made me wonder why the Vatican would have the most sophisticated telescope positioned in Arizona. From the sky will rain….

    • “why the Vatican would have the most sophisticated telescope positioned in Arizona”
      You’re really reading into it a little too much. The Vatican has always been interested in science and astronomy. As far as the deluge the world will face as depicted in Akita, it is not certain whether it will be man or heaven. By the looks of what is going in with China, North Korea, Iran, etc, we can probably be assured the fires will come from nuclear weapons. Regardless, it does not prevent one from gazing into the heavens, into God’s creation.

  5. Though I haven’t seen the film yet, judging from this review as well as other comments in interviews with the creators, I’m disappointed. I really hoped this would be the definitive film on Our Lady of Fatima. But it sounds like in an effort to introduce Fatima to non-Catholics they have taken out some of the harsher aspects such as the penances the Children did to save souls from Hell as well as the specific warning about the rise of Communism.

    It makes me question how much of Barbara Nicolosi’s original screenplay was kept for this film. Barbara Nicolosi is a woman I admire and respect very well for fighting for strong Catholic cinema and she was invited to see an early screening of “The Passion of the Christ” and defended it from complaints from both Protestants at the screening and the accusations of the film being anti-semetic.

    I also question the alleged endorsement of this film by the Fatima Shrine itself in Portugal. If the film doesn’t even touch on the call for Russia’s conversion or the penances the children did to save souls than why is the film being endorsed by the shrine? It leads me to believe that the Fatima Shrine itself has watered down the Fatima message, focusing more on the “Peace” aspect rather than the need for conversion and save souls from Hell. Perhaps this is just a result of a modern church that no longer wants to talk about the salvation of souls.

    Very sad and disappointing 🙁

    • Penance for the conversion of sinners is stressed in the new film and the visions of hell and a Pope being assassinated are shown.

  6. Last note: ironically the Fatima Shrine already has a film about Fatima which they have been showing there for almost 30 years: “Apparitions at Fatima”, directed by Daniel Costelle and released in 1991! “Apparitions at Fatima” was endorsed both by Sr. Lucia and St. John Paul II! In addition, the film does deal with the penances the Children undertook for the conversion of sinners and the spreading of Russia’s errors throughout the world. Yes, it is a slow film and not technologically savvy but at least it presents the story as Sr. Lucia wrote it. It can be purchased at the “World Apostolate of Fatima” store (the film is available from EWTN Religious Catalogue, however it is an edited version, not the whole film).

    I think I will be keeping “Apparitions of Fatima” (1991) rather than purchase this film 🙁

  7. Boy, the comments here are real downers. The film actually does show the children’s vision of hell and the Pope being assassinated, Mary asks the children to do penance, and Lucia is shown doing penance. Russia is not mentioned but the daily Rosary is stressed. The film is an introduction to the Fatima story. It is unfortunate that some people give Fatima a bad name with their obsessive, negative approach.

  8. When I saw the trailers, I felt a lot there was going to be a lot missing in terms of substance. I don’t why one would want to water down what occurred in Fatima. There is nothing to hide and for those seeking to understand what occurred there, there really is no need to “water it down”. Such a shame, a missed opportunity for deep reflection.

  9. I bought a hard cover book from the Ignatian Press called The Secrets of Fatima. It is excellent about what was going on in the world and Fatima. Learned much that I had never heard of nor would have understood in my young days. Highly recommend. Also as to the negative comments posted here, I seriously believe that God and Our Lady would be shamed to have anyone be so negative about anything that at least is an attempt to bring to light for others some of the mysteries of this faith. Blessings for our world and its people and all sentient beings.

    • It’s always easier to tear things down than to build them up. That’s true also with comments.
      Every religious film misses the mark in some way because it’s very difficult to translate the transcendent to the screen. But at least this is an effort to do so in an era of disbelief. Good for the filmmakers and God bless them.

  10. Look, I admit I was maybe too hard on the film in my initial comments. I suppose my hopes for this film were too high. Since this was only the second big screen adaption of the story of Fatima I had hoped this film would be the definitive version but I felt let down and disappointed.

    Apparently Barbara Nicolosi, who is an strong Orthodox Catholic who defended “The Passion of the Christ” as well as rightfully holding Christian or Catholic films to same moviemaking standards as secular Hollywood films (she has been highly critical of some of the films from “Pureflix” like “Facing the Giants” and “God’s not Dead”) was the original screenwriter of the film. However, the director (and possibly the other screenwriters) butchered her script and gutted it of most of its Catholicism, which allegedly left her heartbroken. This explains some of the odd choices such as eliminating the reception of Holy Communion by the Shepherds from the Angel of Peace, the elimination of the fate of Amelia, who Our Lady says is in Purgatory, as well as Our Lady telling the children not to harm themselves with ropes as if they are cutters.

    Though I think the film was good as a movie, the inaccuracies and near-gutting of its Catholicism prevent the film from being what it could have been! Hopefully one day a director will come along who makes a film with the quality of this film as well as the accuracy of “Apparitions at Fatima”, Daniel Costelle’s film from 1992!

  11. I was excited to see the film and watched it Friday. Fatima was a big part of my reversion 10 yrs ago. This is the absolute worst movie on Fatima ever. Based more on Fr. Dhanis’ 1940-1950’s articles where he gives his take on the events vs. Lucia’s memoirs. Save your money and purchase the “The 13th Day” which is significantly more faithful the Sr. Lucia’s accounts. This film is one reason why we need the 5 First Saturdays of Reparation.

  12. Movie great disappointment. It was not faithful to the complete message of our lady. 1950’s movie Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima was better.

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