Fatima stars Harvey Keitel (Professor Nichols), Sônia Braga (Sister Lúcia), Joaquim de Almeida (Father Ferreira), Goran Višnjić (Artur - the Mayor), Stephanie Gil (young Lúcia) & Lúcia Moniz (Maria Roisa, young Lúcia's mum) and will be in Cinemas Nationally on 3 September 2020. Victoria to follow post-lockdown.
In modern-day Portugal, author and noted sceptic Professor Nichols visits a convent in the riverside city of Coimbra to visit Sister Lúcia, an elderly nun and 80 year old. This author and religious scholar wants to hear the tale of Fátima from a firsthand witness. The conversations between the pragmatic academic and the nun who has dedicated her life in service of God will bring to light a decades-old mystery. She recounts for him her role in a historic event that took place in 1917 and has fascinated millions for more than a century.
In 1917, outside the parish of Fátima, Portugal, a 10-year-old girl is visited by an angel as she wanders in a cave near her home in the hamlet of Aljustrel. She is shown visions of a battlefield with WWI raging across Europe. She sees her brother, a soldier at the front caught in an explosion.
Later, while tending sheep, Lúcia and her two younger cousins are visited this time by the Virgin Mary (Joana Ribeiro) who tells them that only prayer and suffering will bring an end to World War 1 and that they are to come back to the same spot every month for six months. She calls herself Our Lady of the Rosary.
Word of the sighting spreads through the country and brings a multitude of believers and disbelievers who flock to see and touch the seer, hoping for a miracle. Angered government officials, stern church leaders and disbelieving parents of the children do their best to get them to recant their story at great length; and not always in the nicest way, but they cannot lie to please humanity.
On the last day of Mary's final visit to Fátima, tens of thousands of believers arrive, hoping to witness a miracle that will convince them of her existence. What they experience is still talked about today and the site remains one of the world's most popular destinations for Catholic pilgrims. This is a story about the power of faith.
The story has been updated for modern audiences, taking place in the context of Western Europe in the early 20th century. It doesn't just give you the miracle, but the background of what was happening in its times to put everything in context. It gives a full-bodied image of a huge anti-Catholic sentiment across the Iberian Peninsula. It was a time when churches were being closed down in Spain and Portugal and priests were being hanged in effigy, which gives you an understanding of why the priests were harsh on the children that could be putting them in danger. There was also a military conflict unlike any the world had seen before, with droves of young men being slaughtered daily and peopled needed faith and hope. The politics of the times was an important element in the story.
Lúcia's young life focuses on her relationship with her mother and the Virgin Mary, her divine mother. Mary is no apparition but appears as a flesh-and-blood woman. The children playing cousins were excellent in their characters and were a natural at being realistic as three poor shepherd children living with their flock in the hills. They nailed it at every level portraying the emotional journey their characters went through; from being harmless children to suddenly being judged by the whole community. Lúcia Moniz's portrayal as Lúcia's mother is also powerful in the way the complex relationship between them is played out. You might remember her as the Portuguese housekeeper Aurelia, in the popular movie Love, Actually, where she plays Colin Firth love interest.
From the intimidating to the children big man, the Mayor (Goran Višnjić, whose Hollywood career was launched on tv series ER) to the Santos family's parish priest and other supporting actors, they were all wonderful across the board. Keitel and Braga take a backseat in their small roles in the film that catapults the story. This is not a film lauded with fantasy stories but one steeped in the realities of the times. There are no good or bad people portrayed, but real people with legitimate motives. Lúcia the nun's utterance to her interviewer of 'I can only give you my testimony, I don't have answers for everything' encapsulates the whole feel of the film and one that audiences might find interesting to ponder. This is a human story for everyone, not just one for Catholics.
The Rembrandt like desaturated palette used for the scenes takes you back to another time and makes it feel authentic and the music communicates the peace of mind the little girl has. The key message of the film is a call to pray for peace, a universal message of peace; a call to change our behaviour to end violence and the madness of war that applies then and now. It allows both believers and nonbelievers to consider its messages.
The audience can take away from it what they need from what happened. It's sensitive to both points of views and is a beautiful story told simply without the Hollywood shebang of special effects. It is also a human story about the struggles of a young girl, her relationship with her mother, and how the questioning of faith can lead to an even stronger faith.
The real Lúcia became a nun and lived in a Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal, from1948 until she died in 2005 at the age of 97. She left a long legacy for the filmmakers to draw upon,
including two volumes of memoirs.