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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive messages about the power of faith. Two people discuss their opposing views and outlooks by treating each other with respect and finding common ground.
Positive Role Models
The children demonstrate integrity. They continue to tell the truth, despite intense pressure from family, community, and authority to recant.
Violence & Scariness
War imagery displayed through a grainy filter, including bombings and soldier on battlefield whose limbs have been blown off. People shot at close range. Children are frightened while witnessing the pits of hell. A child is slapped, smacked several times by a parent. A child is told by angelic icon that she must suffer to help others, is shown harming herself a couple of times.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fatima is a drama about a 1917 religious event referred to as "The Miracle of the Sun." Three children, ages 7 to 10, report that the Virgin Mary has appeared to them, asking them to deliver her message that World War I will end if people pray and "suffer greatly." Despite intense pressure by those in positions of power to change their story, the children demonstrate real integrity and continue to tell the truth. In an attempt to fulfill the need to "suffer," the oldest child, Lucia (Stephanie Gil), is shown harming herself in a couple of non-life-threatening ways. Angels share violent visions with the children, including flashes of gruesome battle scenes, priests being shot, and images of the fiery depths of hell. The timeline jumps between 1917 and 1989, when a skeptical professor is interviewing Lucia -- now an elderly nun -- about the events (and asking the questions that secular viewers might have). Even though the story is about children, it probably won't be terribly interesting to them. The film's value is more in understanding the circumstances around a modern-day miracle and what it takes to be granted sainthood. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Marco Pontecorvo's first English-language feature as a director won't make the angels sing, but it's everything you'd expect from a longtime cinematographer: It's beautifully shot. Dark caves, dingy homes, and drab clothing are made more dynamic, while angelic beings and the purity of children's faces shine bright. The gorgeous photography in Fatima shifts your brain's expectations: This isn't what we've come to expect from the typical low-budget faith-based film. Rather, this is a big production about characters of faith. For those (still) waiting for the moment when stories of faith really go mainstream, this is a step in that direction.
Unfortunately, the script doesn't carry an emotional impact and, therefore, doesn't engage viewers in what should be an earth-shattering tale. By the time we get to the miracle, it's frankly underwhelming. The audience most likely to be singing the movie's praises will be adults seeking insight -- and, of course, those of faith. To parents hoping to show -- not just tell -- their kids that miracles exist or to explain Mariology, this film falls flat. The idea that the Virgin Mary would show children gruesome images of war and a pope being shot in the head, take them on a journey to hell, and tell them that they personally must "suffer greatly" to end a world war and bring home their family members doesn't jibe with most modern-day Christian teachings. Pontecorvo does his best to bring the story to today's audiences by including a more modern-day author who's a skeptic, allowing him to ask a lot of hard questions. But most kids aren't going to be hanging on to find the answer -- they're going to wonder when they can leave the room.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.