(director/writer: Valerie Buhagiar; cinematographer: Diego Guijarro; editors: Matt Lyon/Peter Strauss; music: Richard Feren; cast: Steven Love (Paulo), Natascha McElhone (Carmen), Michaela Farrugia (Rita), Richard Clarkin (Tom), Henry Zammit Cordina (Fr. Francis); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Coral Aiken/Pierre EllulAnika Psaila Savona; Good Deed Entertainment; 2021-Malta/Canada-in Maltese & English with English subtitles)
“I choose to overlook its obvious flaws, as I was enjoying how the church was getting pay back for its past indulgences.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Maltese filmmaker and former actress Valerie Buhagiar (“It’s Hard to be Human”/”The Anniversary”) sets her appealing but inconsequential fable-like redemption drama (not based on Bizet’s opera) in the 1980s, in a rural small coastal Malta village. The 50-year-old Carmen (Natascha McElhone, Brit actress), a servant since 16, who looked after her joyless priest brother as a housekeeper until his death in 1980. She’s left without money or a profession or a home. To seek her own life, she steals the keys to the church and finds space to live there on the grounds and masquerade as her village’s new spiritual leader. She administers confessions, offering good advice, especially, to long-suffering wives. The new priest’s sister (Michaela Farrugia) disdains her, but Carmen learns how to avoid her.
Donations go up because of Carmen’s confessions and she uses the donations to get new clothes.
In town Carmen hooks up with the pawn-shop owner Paulo (Steven Love), and has an affair with him.
The slight plot makes little sense, but it’s a fun watch. I choose to overlook its obvious flaws, as I was enjoying how the church was getting pay back for its past indulgences.
REVIEWED ON 10/5/2022 GRADE: B-