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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Let Me In

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Given its serious treatment of themes such as isolation and the psychological roots of violence, writer-director Matt Reeves' macabre yet strangely moving twist on vampire lore, "Let Me In" (Overture), is not a work to be easily dismissed.

But this screen version of Swedish novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist's best-seller "Let The Right One In" — preceded by a 2008 Swedish film adaptation of the same title—becomes, at times, far too gruesome to justify endorsement for viewers of any age.

That's a shame because the intent here is clearly far from exploitative. Instead this production—the first in three decades from the long-dormant British studio Hammer Films—sets out to tell a tale of heartfelt, though unlikely, puppy love between two preteens desperately in need of human connection.

The first of these we encounter is 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Bullied and lonely, Owen is also coping with the emotional damage wrought by his parents' acrimonious separation and impending divorce and with his sense of alienation from his gritty, unwelcoming surroundings in 1983 Los Alamos, N.M.

So when he meets new neighbor and apparently kindred soul Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), Owen rapidly develops a friendly crush. But his hopes for breaking the spell of his solitude are more than a little impaired by his gradual discovery that Abby is not exactly your average girl-next-door and that the mysterious guardian Owen takes to be her father (Richard Jenkins) is connected to a spate of recent murders.

As it reveals the dark identity lurking behind its young heroine's appealing facade, the script explores the parallels between her metaphysical plight and Owen's down-to-earth and all-too-common difficulties.

But in juxtaposing the two sides of Abby's strange persona, and in uncovering the nature of her relationship with Jenkins' unnamed character, the oblique approach to disturbing events that bolsters the opening scenes gives way to a level of splatter typical of far less imaginative offerings in the genre.

The script's philosophical approach to the use of violence is initially more in keeping with Christian morality. Thus, although Abby advises Owen to strike back against his pummeling schoolboy persecutors, the consequences when he does—lashing out disproportionately and dangerously—only demonstrate the futility of meeting evil with evil.

Later scenes that see the pair teaming up to protect each other by physical means, however, undercut this point, appealing simultaneously to viewers' sympathy and their baser instincts.

While the bond between Owen and Abby is mostly expressed in an age appropriate manner—we see Owen receive what is obviously his first kiss—there is an unnecessarily edgy scene in which Abby disrobes while Owen keeps his eyes closed and the duo then share a bed, though this proximity leads to nothing.

Owen also indulges his sexual curiosity in an unpleasant way, first spying on the couple who live opposite by the use of a telescope, and later peeking at Abby from behind as she gets dressed after a shower.

More fundamentally, Owen eventually makes a far reaching moral choice that, while rooted in his genuine affection for the uniquely vulnerable Abby, would nonetheless be wholly unacceptable within the context of real life.

The film contains much gory violence, a scene of voyeurism with brief graphic sexual activity and fleeting upper female nudity, about a half-dozen uses of profanity as well as some rough and a few crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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