I have a high regard for Steven Grey-danus and his insights and advice on all the films he reviews. But I am afraid he missed the mark on Leonardo Defilippis' little jewel of a film on St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Thérèse (“Modernity's Greatest Saint,” Sept. 26-Oct. 2). While Greydanus said some good things about the film, I think his review has a couple of serious flaws in its approach to this film.
First, the approach Catholics (and Catholic film reviewers) should have to this film should not be the same as the usual films produced by larger film companies that Greydanus normally reviews. The fact that tiny, little, poor Luke Films was even able to produce such a film of this quality, and then get it into secular theaters across the country without a distributor, is just an astounding achievement. This film had no major investors or big money behind it — it was financed solely by donations from individuals who love St. Thérèse. The vast majority of donors were thousands of “little people.” This is the first feature film ever made from just private donations from individuals. This is a film made from love.
Also, how do you translate onto the silver screen an essentially spiritual story, the “story of a soul”? A daunting challenge indeed, especially in this modern age of special effects, non-stop action and staggering film costs. Few would even attempt to produce such a profound interior spiritual journey on film. The risks are so high, and the level of difficulty to make it “work” is great. Yet, in the face of those huge challenges, the undaunted Leonardo Defilippis and crew rose to the task and have produced a little gem of a film on St. Thérèse.
Greydanus complains about a number of things not told in the film, like not enough on her “little way” or her role as novice mistress, etc. Well, this is a 90-minute film trying to cover a lot of ground about her whole life, not a three-hour epic or miniseries. If this movie inspires many people to go and read her classic autobiography or any of the other excellent books on her life, spirituality and message, then so much wonderful spiritual fruit will be realized by this “little film.” Which it may very well do. And the mystical body of Christ in the Catholic Church will be the beneficiary.
Congratulations to Leonardo Defilippis and Luke Films for this incredible accomplishment.
ANTHONY J. RYAN
Marketing Director, Ignatius Press
San Francisco, California
Steven Greydanus replies: My thanks to Mr. Ryan for his kind words about my work. I hope he's right about the film inspiring some viewers; I fear that it will leave many more cool. Ignatius Press distributes many films, not all big-budget films, that do a better job of reaching viewers who most need to be reached.