The Letters

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Letters Movie Poster Image
Underwhelming biopic about the extraordinary Mother Teresa.
  • PG
  • 2015
  • 118 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of dedication to faith and to all humanity, particularly the disenfranchised and those without resources.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Few people are more laudable than Mother Teresa, whose lifelong mission to serve the poorest of the poor sustained her and got her through a crisis of faith. An inspiration to millions, she nevertheless saw the individual humanity of those she served abd was able to attract concerned, intelligent young women to join her.

Violence

An angry mob protests Mother Teresa's use of a temple as a hospital. A family doesn't want her help (at first) and angrily tells her to go away. Threat of violence during the Partition. Scenes of extreme poverty and sick and dying people suffering.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Letters is a biographical drama about Mother Teresa. Starring English actress Juliet Stevenson as the Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun, the movie explores key moments in Mother Teresa's transformation from a convent nun who taught school in India to a Vatican-approved head of her own order dedicated to the "poorest of the poor." The movie features several scenes of human suffering, including the dying and poverty-stricken, as well as a protest by those temporarily angry that a temple was used as a hospital. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEmilio P. November 1, 2016

Awesome Movie!!

This movie really spoke to me, If i was to pick another movie to watch I would definitely go for a movie like this one. This movie showed how it could speak to... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byButterflydust33 May 24, 2016

Awesome Movie!

I really loved this movie! Even though I'm not usually into movies like this I really enjoyed it. There is some violence, drama, and sick people that die i... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE LETTERS frames the story of Mother Teresa's life and ministry by framing it with a Vatican investigation into whether she should be canonized as a saint. Written and directed by William Riead, the movie flashes back to Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson) before she held the title of "Mother" -- to when she was a thirtysomething nun in the Sisters of Loreto teaching at a girls' school in Calcutta. Feeling God's call, she asks to be allowed to work with the poor and is eventually granted a papal allowance to start the Missionaries of Charity, the Catholic order requiring vows of chastity and commitment to the poorest of the poor. Mother Teresa's ministry put her at odds with the local impoverished Hindu communities, as well as better-off Catholic Indians who didn't want their daughters to join her order, which demanded a life of ascetic simplicity and complete devotion. The movie also explores Mother Teresa's crisis of faith, which she wrote about in letters to her spiritual mentor, Jesuit Father Celest Van Exem (Max von Sydow). 

Is it any good?

While offering a decent chronology of important events in Mother Teresa's ministry for the poor, this drama is ultimately too bland and unremarkable to be as memorable as its legendary subject. Stevenson, although a capable actress, is unconvincing playing Mother Teresa over a 40-year-span (her appearance barely changes), and she doesn't have much more to do than look empathetically at suffering souls and give them a hand -- both literally and figuratively. The screenplay glosses over some significant historical events (like the Indian Partition) and often tells rather than shows how Mother Teresa struggled to make peace with her spiritual doubts.

Watching the film, audiences may begin to wonder whether there are documentaries that depict the legendary nun's story without getting bogged down in stilted dialogue, oversimplified historical events, or the question of her canonization (which is rumored to be slated, although the Vatican has yet to announce a specific date). There are only a couple of scenes in which Mother Teresa seems more human than saint -- once being when she cries that she hasn't seen her mother or sister in years. For a film that's titled for the letters that explore Mother Teresa's doubts and worries, it's a shame there isn't more about her inner life -- and legacy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about biographical films and the challenges of portraying an extraordinary life. What did you learn about Mother Teresa from this film? How accurate do you think the film is?

  • Although The Letters takes place across several decades, it zeroes in on specific milestones in Mother Teresa's life. What do you think of this approach (rather than starting at her birth or only show one small time period in her life)?

  • The movie has many religious themes, but is it also accessible to those who aren't Catholic or Christian? Is Mother Teresa a role model only to people of faith or to all citizens of the world?

Movie details

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