Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Letters [2014]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune ()  RogerEbert.com (1 Star)  AVClub (C-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune () review
RogerEbert.com (G. Cheshire) review
AVClub (N. Murray) review  

The Letters [2014] (screenplay and directed by William Riead) tells the story of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the beginnings of her work with "the poorest of the poor" in India (just as India was gaining its independence) and then the current status of her canonization process.

It's an excellent film that portrays Mother Teresa (played in the film by Juliet Stevenson) in remarkably human light (and in an unexpected AND THOROUGHLY CHALLENGING WAY): She's portrayed as someone who PERHAPS "had some issues" when she was younger (PERHAPS a "touch of ASPERGER SYNDROME") and this BOTH MAKES SENSE and OPENS THE DOOR TO THE POSSIBILITY OF ACCEPTING THE CONTRIBUTIONS / POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTIONS of "people with issues" who, let's face it, are OFTEN ROUTINELY DISMISSED as having LITTLE / NOTHING (positive) TO OFFER to (otherwise) "Normal People."

It makes sense BECAUSE it took A REMARKABLE STUBBORNNESS / SINGLEMINDEDNESS TO BEGIN WHAT SHE DID THERE IN CALCUTTA.  Her Mother Superior (played in the film by Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal) just wanted her to "stay in the convent" AND (perhaps...) PRAY (for the poor), WHILE _a lot of the Hindu poor_ who first encountered her SAW HER _INITIALLY_ WITH A LOT OF SUSPICION AS "A POSSIBLE BACKDOOR AGENT OF PROSELYTIZATION even NEO-COLONIZATION." Instead IN SPITE THE OPPOSITION / SUSPICION, she just started TEACHING STREET KIDS HOW TO READ (no matter what their parents initially thought) and TAKING PEOPLE LEFT DYING IN THE STREETS TO DIE WITH HER (and her growing community of sisters) SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT _DIE ALONE_

A "NORMAL PERSON" would not do this ... (!!).

I don't necessarily BUY this portrayal of Mother Teresa, BECAUSE I MET HER and spent an afternoon with her along with 20-30 young religious in Rome when I was studying there, and she seemed far livelier / happier than portrayed in the film.  But I APPRECIATE THE POINT, because I'VE LONG BELIEVED that people with at least "mild/moderate issues" (mild/moderate depressives, mild/moderate manic-depressives, even folks with milder forms of Aspergers/Autism Spectrum Disorder) ARE _NEEDED_ IN A HEALTHY SOCIETY.  OTHERWISE WE CREATE A SOCIETY OF "WELL-ADJUSTED" _YES MEN_, who CAN'T SEE what the mild / moderate depressive or the person with mild / moderate A.D.D. CAN SEE ("It'll never work ..." or "Folks, before you decide to do this, you have to look at this problem from _multiple_ angles..."), OR WON'T HAVE _THE COMMITMENT_ that someone with mild-moderate Aspergers would _naturally have_.

We're so worried about Bio-Diversity, WHAT ABOUT "PSYCHOLOGICAL DIVERSITY"?

So I found this film absolutely fascinating!  And while I don't necessarily buy completely that Mother Teresa had mild Aspergers, I'M FASCINATED AND SURPRISINGLY EDIFIED (!) BY THE PROSPECT THAT SHE MAY HAVE HAD THAT CONDITION.

Anyway, the larger society of "perfect people" (or "perfect wannabes") may not understand this film at all.  But this is a very NICE, GENTLE portrayal of a remarkably SINGLE-MINDED (arguably stubborn ! ;-) "little woman" who eventually melted hearts and (arguably) changed the world.  Great job!

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