PG | 114 min | Drama
Review - Matt Mungle
**In theaters December 4th 2015**
Synopsis: A drama that explores the life of Mother Teresa through letters she wrote to her longtime friend and spiritual advisor, Father Celeste van Exem over a nearly 50-year period.
Review: There has been a lot written about Mother Teresa but THE LETTERS is the most intimate by far. Documentaries are able to lay out the facts and share actual footage but a drama allows the story to move and breath at a more gentle pace.
The film starts with a committee discussing the canonization of Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson). There is concern about a group of letters written by her that tell of her struggles and moments of self doubt. Then begins the story of her journey from early teachings at a convent to her lifelong devotion to the poor of Calcutta.
The intriguing part of The Letters is that it focuses a lot on the obstacles she overcame trying to follow her calling. Many may think it was a simple process. Here was this well respected teacher who decided to reach out and help the poor around her. Seems like the church and local governments would applaud her. But as with many worthwhile endeavors the path was not an easy one. Red tape and opposition from the Catholic Church was one of the biggest hurdles. It is encouraging to watch her face each one with the same outward unwavering faith and determination. All while inwardly questioning so much.
Mother Teresa was not only an aide to the poor in India but an inspiration to all those around her. Many young women discovered a renewed passion and desire to serve under her wing. Her soft spoken demeanor and open heart was infectious. But what beats the loudest is her compassion for souls. Not to convert but to comfort. This is not a woman with an agenda or screaming a dogmatic rant. Her directive was love.
Stevenson is perfect in her portrayal of Mother Teresa. The way she carries herself both in body motions and soft facial expression encompasses the stature of this amazing woman. She delivers each line with the balance of conviction and determination. Even in her moments of doubt there is the underlying understanding that is not her will being carried out.
The film is written and directed by William Riead who uses the streets of India as a canvas of despair. You can sense the isolation that Mother Teresa must have felt as she looked out of her convent windows to the people below. The set design and cinematography is a portal to a different time and place. This draws you into the story and solidifies the person of Mother Teresa.
THE LETTERS is rated PG for thematic material including some images of human suffering. It is safe for the whole family but the story and dramatic material are intended for those older. Young viewers would certainly be encouraged and enlightened by the story but find the pacing and dialogue too slow. A must see for those who like to engage with non fictional characters. I give it 4 out of 5 pope mobiles. What I thought was going to be a regurgitation of everything I have seen and read in the past turned out to be a very thought proving and interesting story of a well known figure.