Review by Camden Ferrell
Rebel Hearts is the newest movie directed by Emmy-winner Pedro Kos. This is his sophomore feature length film, and it had its premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Despite its great subjects and rich history, the film squanders the potential of its story and creates something fairly dull and conventional.
The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were a group of trailblazing nuns in the 1960’s. In Los Angeles, the were activists in the community, fighting for equality, fighting against patriarchal oppression, and fighting for their own personal freedom. Through acts of defiance and bravery, they shook the foundations of the Catholic Church and challenged the idea of what a nun and woman were supposed to be. This is an interesting premise for the documentary especially due to its social relevance and the fact these women are still taking a stand today for modern issues.
The movie has some creativity and interesting visual choices at a handful of moments throughout the film, but it also comes off as far too safe in its approach to the story. It excels in superficially telling their story, but it doesn’t too much to dynamically immerse you in their history of activism. It does little more than reading about the events would, and it feels like a missed opportunity considering how rich this subject is.
The nuns themselves are interesting figures. They include Anita Caspary, Helen Kelley, Pat Reif, and Corita Kent. It was interesting to see their sisterhood and how it has developed over the years, and they provide some engaging insight into their lives, and this is where the movie thrives the most. They are each unique and play and individual role in their activism and fight for justice and equality, and they don’t show any signs of stopping soon. They are empowering women who fight for change and did a lot to try and bring the church into the modern age.
The movie isn’t necessarily bad, but it is underwhelming. It takes such an inspiring and radical story with tons of social relevance, and it doesn’t capitalize on those traits. It’s content to refrain from examining the intricacies and nuances of their story. While this probably makes it more palatable for viewers, it also feels like we’re missing some pieces of the story that are pertinent for a more profound experience.
Rebel Hearts has a great story behind it with a lot of interesting nuns, and it works in telling their story. However, for those looking for an in-depth dive into these sisters’ activism and fight for equality, you may be slightly underwhelmed.
Rebel Hearts is in select theaters June 25 and streaming on Discovery+ on June 27.
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