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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.

To 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 around—but 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 crew—one 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 excellent—especially by lead Lindsay Younce, Linda Hayden and Leonardo Defilippis—and 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 life—underscoring 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 subject’s 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 nationwide—amazing for 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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