Hot Take: A bland, somewhat informative, occasionally boring, sporadically moving, secular take on the life of Mother Teresa sound like something you’d dig? It’s not as bad as it sounds but it’s about as safe as a Saturday afternoon Hallmark Channel flick.
It’s hard to articulate the viewing experience of The Letters. The story of Mother Teresa is inspiring. Her life of selflessness is one to be admired and revered. She’d prefer we didn’t as she saw herself as an instrument of God, something some dismiss the existence of. Such a topic is reserved for another time as The Letters rarely, if ever, spends time caught up in the discussion. Instead, the film takes a more secular look at the life and hardships of Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa.
It’s not that God is never mentioned in the film but it’s the focus on the ascension of Mother Teresa to her calling to take care of the poorest of the poor in India and the obstacles she overcame to get there. The major issue with The Letters isn’t in it’s message as it avoids getting wrapped up in the religious side of things. Where it falls short is in its portrayal of the challenges Mother Teresa faced. While the words of Celeste van Exem (Max von Sydow) are ones of darkness and difficulty with her faith, the visuals don’t match. It never looked that easy in execution but you never doubted the conviction or the commitment. It’s confusing listening to one thing and seeing another. Because of that, the film is just adequate and not very spectacular unlike the woman whose story it is telling.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Message of Selflessness
The prevalent theme is the work of Mother Teresa and how selfless she was.
- More Secular Than Religious
Those expecting something along the lines of War Room or even Woodlawn will be sorely disappointed. While we know Mother Teresa was strong in her beliefs, the movie does not make it the central theme. It’s kind of bold considering the audience that would appeal to an audience which might not touch The Letters with a ten foot pole.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Tell Don’t Show?
There are a number of scenes where you hear Max von Sydow’s voice say one thing but the scene doesn’t match. The events do but his character’s interpretation of the scene aren’t what we witness.
- The Opening
In the beginning of the movie, in about five minutes, we see quick somewhat disconnected scenes from various points in the movie’s timeline. The cuts are so abrupt and, without context, disconnected, it takes a while for the film to find it’s voice.