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Mother Love
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES
CHANGELING
PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL
INSIDE DARKNESS
ADOPTION
RUBY
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



 

THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES (A-3, PG-13): Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) struggles to have a relationship with her abusive father, T. Ray (Paul Bettany). He holds a grudge against the girl because of her mother’s death years earlier.

They live in rural South Carolina during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. Lily treasures her mother’s mementos, including a label that has an image of a Black Madonna.

Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) is the housekeeper who befriends Lily after the girl’s father punishes her for a minor infraction. When Rosaleen goes to town to register to vote, a group of white men harass her. Rosaleen and Lily flee to a nearby town, where Lily discovers bottles of honey that have labels showing the Black Madonna.

When Rosaleen and Lily are told the nearby Boatwright sisters produce the honey, they head to their home. In addition to being beekeepers, August (Queen Latifah), June (Alicia Keys) and May (Sophie Okonedo) Boatwright are also the keepers of an 18th-century figurehead of a ship.

August explains to Lily and Rosaleen that the statue was thought to be Mother Mary, who understood suffering and would stand with the persecuted. The Boatwright sisters preside over gatherings of local women who pray the Rosary. They long for the day when their human and civil rights are upheld.

Lily and Rosaleen become part of the Boatwright family. August teaches Lily how to care for the bees, to love them because every little thing needs love. August also provides the link to Lily’s mother and the love for which the girl has been searching.

This beautiful adaptation of the delicate and spiritually rich novel by Sue Monk Kidd is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball). The Marian theology of the film recalls biblical themes suggested by the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and provides a subtle subtext that relates to family and race, social and cultural tensions and the issues of the Civil Rights era as well as those that mark today’s era.

The ensemble performances are strong, but Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah shine. Their acting never plays to sentiment but reveals maturity and intelligence. Hums with light and inspiration; suicide, violence and problem language.

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CHANGELING

CHANGELING (A-3, R): In European folklore a changeling is a fairy child or elf left to take the place of a human child. In Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood’s atmospheric historical film about crime and children (see Mystic River, A Perfect World), the title would seem to indicate that a changeling is the focus of the story. But the heroine is single parent Christine Collins, played with great depth and intensity by Angelina Jolie.

In 1928, Christine comes home from her job as a Los Angeles telephone supervisor to find that her nine-year-old son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith), has disappeared. She searches the neighborhood and then calls the police. Thus starts a string of criminal actions on the part of the Los Angeles police, then known as the most violent police department in the country, who will do anything to look competent and avoid embarrassment.

They intimidate Christine into accepting an imposter child as her own. When she goes public with complaints, the police incarcerate her in a mental hospital to shut her up. A Presbyterian minister (John Malkovich) gets involved in exposing the cops.

This chilling true-crime story inspires as it breaks your heart, even if the characters are not as developed as with conventional crime films. The strength of this film lies in its originality and nonformulaic approach to standard police procedurals.

It turns out that Walter was one of at least 20 boys who disappeared around Los Angeles at the time, revealing one of the most heartbreaking crimes in U.S. history. How this happens and how the story concludes are a cinematic experience that never loses the audience.

Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5) researched the story for months, changing some details for sense and time. Themes about the abuse of power prevail, including the death penalty and who defines mental illness. Clint Eastwood proves once again that he is one of America’s greatest directors in this rare and memorable showcase about a mother’s love for her child. Some rough language.

PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL (not yet rated): In 2003, Liberian warlord-turned-dictator Charles Taylor drove his country into terror as it joined the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. This created an army of rebels who revolted against Taylor’s government.

Confronted with the loss of their children as soldiers for both government and rebel armies, the mass killings and the horrific attacks on girls and women, Christian and Muslim women joined together to take a stand against war and brutality. Thus began months of patience, perseverance, fear and courage in the face of terror.

The women refused to take it anymore and began a nonviolent protest. They sat with signs along the main road for months. In 2003, U.N. peacekeeping forces entered the country.

During peace talks in 2007, the women traveled to Ghana from Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, and forced African leaders to talk. The women refused to leave until a peace deal was achieved.

Charles Taylor was forced into exile in Nigeria. Free elections followed and Liberia’s first woman president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was elected.

This gentle and brave documentary, directed by Gini Reticker and produced by Abigail Disney, celebrates spirits of steel as women put aside their religious differences to work nonviolently for peace for all. Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said this film “is inspiring, uplifting and a call to action for all of us.”

INSIDE DARKNESS This 35-minute film by Dominican priest Dominic DeLay (Mud Puddle Films) focuses on three U.S. presidential candidates who are held prisoner in a room where the walls are closing in. They are forced to confront their inner selves and the extent to which they will go for their country. The unanswered questions are evocative. An excellent film for considering character and themes of Catholic social teaching. Available with a guide from www.InsideDarkness.com.

ADOPTION (Hallmark Channel): In honor of November as National Adoption Month, Hallmark Channel is relaunching this touching and inspiring series. All previous episodes are on the Internet at www.hallmarkchannel.com. This warm, emotional series has a strong B.K. (bring Kleenex) rating.

RUBY (Sundays, Style Network): Ruby Gettinger, a Sunday school teacher in Savannah, Georgia, receives a death sentence from her doctors when her weight passes 700 pounds.

Obese from the age of 13, she is faced with changing her life while dealing with the disapproval of strangers and the often enabling love of relatives and friends who care. Ruby is an unscripted reality show with a spiritual theme that will air for only nine episodes. An online microsite (www.mystyle.com/ruby) will follow Ruby’s journey with blogs and vlogs (video blogs). Thoughtful and compassionate.

BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA (A-1, PG): Chloe, a classy canine, goes missing in Mexico City and makes her way home with the help of relatives from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. This entertaining comedy uses stereotypes against type to deliver messages about ethnic prejudice and tolerance, immigration issues, materialism and care for pets. Some peril.

THE WRESTLER (unrated, PG): After he has a heart attack, an aging professional wrestler (Mickey Rourke) is forced to change his life. This character study won the highest award at the Venice Film Festival this year. A sad tale because sometimes self-awareness and changing one’s life seem unreachable goals.

BODY OF LIES (L, R): A C.I.A. operative in the Middle East (Leonardo DiCaprio) distrusts his handler back in Washington, D.C. (Russell Crowe). The film exposes American hubris and ignorance in dealing with the Middle East. Director Ridley Scott could have applied a more subtle touch, but the consequences for the West’s lack of diplomacy and understanding of very different cultures are clear enough. Violence, torture, profanity.

BLINDNESS (L, R): A plague of blindness strikes many people. Exiled to a now-abandoned Catholic sanitarium, the people descend into an almost Lord of the Flies existence as many become their worst selves. The film, based on a 1995 novel by José Saramago, explores violence, hope and what it means to be human. Nudity, violence, problem language.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

The USCCB’s Office for Film and Broadcasting gives these ratings. See www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm.

Find reviews by Sister Rose and others at www.CatholicMovieReviews.org.

 


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