Last week my wife, Marcia, our 13-year-old son, Sean, and I were able to
attend a local movie theater to watch the new national release of Leonardo
Defilippis's little gem of a film, Thérèse.
We had the privilege of attending an advance screening of the film last
November at Sony Studios. But we were eager to see it again, and to find
out what changes were made in the final editing process, and what our reaction
would be this second time around.
see this deeply spiritual, Catholic film featured on the outside theatrical
billboards, on the movie posters inside the theaters, and before our eyes
on the big screen after the usual secular movie previews, was a rather stunning
and delightful experience. And very inspiring.
Our thoughts and emotions in response to this second viewing of the final
edited version were very similar to our reaction and sentiments the first
time aroundbut even deeper. The final version has been "tightened
up" a bit, and flows a little smoother and more seamlessly than the
screening version. We liked it even better this time. Contrary to what a
lot of the films critics say, everything about this film is an astounding
achievement. As with any film, especially one produced in such a challenging
way with so little funds, people will vary in their praise and criticism
of the movie.
Translating the "Story of a Soul" onto the big screen was a very
daunting effort for Leonardo Defilippis and crewone that few if any
other filmmakers would even dare to try. No wonder. The risks for making
it work on film are high. But Luke Films has succeeded admirably. The cinematography
by Lourdes Ambrose is exquisite, the costumes and settings beautiful and
authentic, the acting excellentespecially by lead Lindsay Younce,
Linda Hayden and Leonardo Defilippisand the music score simply glorious.
The film combines
wonderful insights and vignettes into the Martin family life, life in Carmel,
humorous and touching lighter moments, and profound spiritual insights into
living a simple, holy Catholic lifeunderscoring the "little way"
of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
How will you react? It depends on how you approach this film, and your understanding
of the subjects deeply spiritual theme. It depends on how you appreciate
the incredible challenges that a tiny film company like St. Luke Productions
had to overcome to produce such a feature film and then somehow get it into
secular theaters, without a distributor.
In our theater, almost full with about five hundred people, the reaction
at the end was tears and clapping. And from what we had heard from cities
around the country where Thérèse has been released,
this is the typical audience response. When is the last time you had that
response at the end of a movie in your local theater?
And the crowds around the country for the opening weekend have been huge.
Thérèse ranked second in gross ticket sales per screen
such a "small" film with no marketing budget to speak of. Whether
the critics like it or not, the ticket receipts show that audiences have
been giving it "two thumbs up". They come to be inspired and uplifted
by the simple story of "the greatest saint of modern times".
We owe a great thanks and hearty congratulations to Leonardo Defilippis
and Luke Films for this miraculous film achievement. With the amazing box
office success of its opening weekend, hopefully Thérèse will
expand into more cities and theaters across the country and reach wider
audiences with its story of this very appealing modern young saint, and
newest Doctor of the Church.
Anthony Ryan is Director of Marketing at Ignatius Press.
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