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Cabrini inspires saintly deeds

My initial reaction watching title nun Cabrini as she sets out to build orphanages for children in New York slums during the 1880s might seem laughably obvious to someone raised Catholic: “This woman should be a saint,” I thought. Uh, well, she is. And not just any saint, but the first with United States citizenship. Well, that certainly deserves a movie, and director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde puts together an appropriate package of epic scale, using grand locations, intricate sets, and a lead whose wide eyes and intense expressions bring the story and woman to life. Monteverde sets his camera at striking angles, with framing of underground sewer tunnels taking on a painterly beauty. The director emphasizes visuals, getting across many points without dialogue. Action starts quietly in Italian, a natural for Christiani Dell ’Anna, who switches to English when the story moves to the rough and rugged world of New York slums.  Better known in Italy than the United States, her distinct features convey strength and wiry determination. She puts belief into screenwriter Rod Barr’s dialogue explaining Mother Cabrini’s mindset, one that involves insights that go beyond religion. Says she, “We make choices, even if we think otherwise.” Furthering the point, she stands up to powerful, bigoted men with the observation that while we have no choice about how we get into the world, we can choose how we live in it. Mother Cabrini wears a nun’s habit and works within the offices of her church, but she instinctively understands the difference between moral right and rules set to benefit power hungry people.  Valuing good deeds over luxurious possessions, Mother Cabrini of real life and film provides an inspirational example of how one person can make a positive difference—and in the process become a saint.

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