Fatima review – miracle movie plays down the transcendence

This sober dramatisation of a famous divine encounter in 1917 focuses more on the Portuguese children claiming heavenly intervention

“Not everything unexplainable is necessarily transcendent,” insists Professor Nichols (Harvey Keitel), an atheist doing research for his latest book. “I can only give you my testimony,” replies Sônia Braga’s Sister Lúcia. Marco Pontecorvo’s gentle historical drama takes the real-life Portuguese nun’s account of the Miracle of the Sun in 1917 as its inspiration. Against the backdrop of the first world war, he focuses on the perspectives of 10-year-old Lúcia dos Santos (Stephanie Gil) and her younger cousins Francisco (Jorge Lamelas) and Jacinta (Alejandra Howard), who claim they have been visited by the “Angel of Peace” (Joana Ribeiro) in their hometown of Fátima. Lúcia is treated with scepticism by those around her, including her mother, Maria (Lúcia Moniz), and the town’s secular mayor (Goran Visnjic).

Most of the film takes place in sepia-tinged flashback, which creates an atmosphere of dour sobriety instead of evoking any sort of divine radiance. Pontecorvo seems particularly interested in conveying the gravitas of Lúcia’s spiritual burden, which is anchored by Gil, who is full of quiet intensity and impressive conviction.

Watch a trailer for Fatima


Simran Hans

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Fatima review – holy mother miracle retold with unbreakable faith
Marco Pontecorvo’s account of the Virgin Mary’s radiant appearance in 1917 Portugal finds little space for doubt, nor drama

Phil Hoad

22, Jun, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
Mudbound review – thoroughly modern period drama
Mary J Blige and Carey Mulligan star in this tale of two families in the Jim Crow south

Simran Hans

19, Nov, 2017 @7:59 AM

Article image
Detroit review – scenes from a riot revisited
Kathryn Bigelow directs John Boyega in a stunningly shot story of disturbing police brutality and civil unrest in 1960s Detroit

Mark Kermode

27, Aug, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
My Cousin Rachel review – fateful attraction
Rachel Weisz is captivating as the enigmatic heroine in a Daphne du Maurier adaptation that adds modern psychology to the period drama

Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

11, Jun, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
Lizzie review – an infamous murder mishandled
This dull dramatisation of the 1892 Lizzie Borden case squanders the talent of its two stars

Simran Hans

23, Dec, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
Gwen review – brooding but unsatisfying rural period mystery
Eleanor Worthington-Cox stands out as the title character

Simran Hans

21, Jul, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Children of the Mountain; Adama; Layla Fourie and more – review
There’s a wealth of African film on demand through Okiki and Mubi, from stirring drama to moral thrillers

Guy Lodge

27, Aug, 2017 @7:00 AM

Article image
Tommy’s Honour review – Jason Connery’s stuffy, old man’s golf drama
This tedious period drama is strictly for the golf movie completist

Wendy Ide

09, Jul, 2017 @7:00 AM

Article image
Youth (La Giovinezza) review – dazed and confused
Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel bring the benefit of age and experience to a misfiring tragi-comedy

Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

31, Jan, 2016 @8:00 AM

Article image
Passing review – life is anything but black and white in Rebecca Hall’s smart period drama
Ruth Negga is magnetic in Hall’s adaptation of Nella Larsen’s story of race in 1920s Harlem

Simran Hans

30, Oct, 2021 @2:00 PM