Review by Sean Boelman
While they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, faith-based films and a high level of production quality traditionally don’t go hand-in-hand. But every once in a while, there comes along a feature-length exercise in moralizing that actually looks and feels like an A-list movie, and Marco Pontecorvo’s Fatima impresses in that regard.
Inspired by true events, the movie tells the story of three young Portugese children who claim to have been visited by the Virgin Mary, angering both the Church and the government. Obviously, there are some historical liberties taken in this retelling of the Miracle of the Sun, as the characters speak English in 1917 Portugal, but the film does feel mostly sincere.
Ultimately, the message here is an inspiring one, to not back down on one’s faith despite the opposition one may face. And while the events depicted in the movie are solely of Christian interest, it isn’t particularly evangelical, and the overall moral still rings true no matter what beliefs one may practice.
The film does suffer from a bloated runtime. Much of the target audience will likely already know where this story ends, so the forced melodrama leading up to the climax is unnecessarily prolonged. While the story of the three young shepherds is compelling, it simply feels like the conflict is stretched out.
Additionally, the movie has too many characters and doesn’t set the right focus. Rather than simply telling the story of the three children, the film’s writers also attempt to depict the community that surrounds them. As a result, a lot of the audience’s emotional connection to the lead characters is lost.
That said, the cast does a really good job in their roles. Stephanie Gil is surprisingly good as the main one of the three young shepherds. It’s a demanding role for such a young performer, and yet she and her two co-stars, Alejandra Howard and Jorge Lamelas, hold their own. Also notable are Harvey Keitel and Sônia Braga, both of whom are solid but underused.
The movie looks great too, which is part of what will help it connect with audiences. The production design and cinematography do an excellent job of periodizing the film. While there are a couple CGI-dependent sequences that don’t look the greatest, they are few in number and brief in length and aren’t too distracting as a result.
Fatima actually isn’t bad, especially for a faith-based movie. It’s not particularly extraordinary, but for audiences in need of uplifting and hopeful content, this will satisfy that desire and may even impress on top of that.
Fatima hits theaters and VOD on August 28.