This movie may not be everyone's cup of tea as there is no fast action, high drama or amazing feats being performed here. This is after all, a documentary about a 90 year old nun full of wisdom and philosophies that comes with maturity (to some), and who loves to garden. However, I daresay in my opinion, I would challenge the thought that this movie does not cover quite a few amazing feats, and those who know where to look, shall find it.
It's taken me a while to see this film as I kept putting it aside thinking its just a documentary, I can see it anytime. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this movie. On the surface it's a story of not much else except following a 90 year old nun over the course of a year and its seasons around the garden and listening to her talk. Do I detect a yawn there?
Sister Loyola at the Home of Compassion, which sits on a hillside in a coastal suburb of Wellington
As a young girl, as soon as she knew how to dress herself, young Johanna used to follow her father around as he worked outside during the depression. From him she learned a lot of thrifty ways and how to make do - mending and recycling. She was very close to her father and throughout the film, speaks of him through loving memories. She said she was no fashion plate and fashion was not her thing, so she became the son her father never had. Her grandfather, she says, had a price on his head in New Zealand for teaching children religion, which was not allowed.
The things I noticed about sister Loyola is this - she's a gentle, compassionate soul with a 'can do' attitude, and busies herself with life and living it. The optimistic way she approaches life is uplifting. She is accepting of all that comes her way and has a very common sense approach to everything. As she put it, 'life is too important to be taken seriously'.
I also loved the Chinese proverb hanging on the wall that said 'men who say it cannot be done should not interrupt women doing it'. She admired strong women and you can see that when in particular, she talks about the nuns in a photograph who refused to ride side saddle on horses as directed. They sat squarely on its back as it was more commonsensical. She believed it was worth giving up life to help people climb up a ladder and make something of their lives. She's a fine example that you do not lose your humanity when you become a nun, and she believed 'love' is everything, and everything is about 'love' - to live with love (in your heart) and in love (to move through life with love) regardless of what's going on, or it's not worth it. She looked for the abilities in the disadvantaged children she took care of, and not their disabilities. For her, giving of herself to those less fortunate was about need, not creed.
Director Jess Feast followed Sister Loyola over a year through the seasons that included her 90th birthday.
You can read a news article here about her becoming a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
You can read more about her here in a monthly newsletter.
Read here about her simple yet complex gardening methods, where she lets nature lead the way.
Last but not least, listen to her by clicking on the 'play' arrow, in an interview. It is a 19 minute long interview to listen to, but having seen the movie, I just enjoyed reliving listening to her speak. She is like a blessing to humanity.
Do I seem a little obsessed? Probably so, as I left the cinema with great admiration and an overwhelming feeling of affection for this little lady. She also reminded me of my grandmother to whom I was very close, all of her life. It has been said this film is healing for some, and I guess her love and compassion has washed over me and I'd love to meet sister Loyola in the flesh. A loyal fan in me has she. I give this documentary a 7 out of 10.