Review: ‘Fatima’ (2020), starring Joaquim de Almeida, Goran Višnjić, Stephanie Gil, Jorge Lamelas, Lúcia Moniz, Alejandra Howard, Sônia Braga and Harvey Keitel

August 27, 2020

by Carla Hay

Jorge Lamelas, Alejandra Howard and Stephanie Gil in “Fatima” (Photo by Claudio Iannone/Picturehouse)

“Fatima” (2020)

Directed by Marco Pontecorvo

Culture Representation: Taking place in Portugal mostly in 1917 and briefly in 1989, the religious drama “Fatima” features a cast of mostly Portuguese characters (although many of the actors portraying them are from other countries, such as Spain and Brazil), with one American, representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash:  Controversy ensues after two girls and a boy claim to see visions of the Virgin Mary in Fátima, Portugal.

Culture Audience: “Fatima” will appeal mostly to people interested in Catholic history or stories of religious miracles, but the movie takes such a dull and repetitive approach to the subject matter that it might turn off viewers looking for a more substantial film.

Lúcia Moniz, Marco D’Almeida and Stephanie Gil in “Fatima” (Photo by Claudio Iannone/Picturehouse)

Do you believe in miracles? The answer to that question might determine how inclined you might be to watch the religious drama “Fatima,” which is based on the true story of three Catholic children in Portugal who claimed to communicate with the Virgin Mary, beginning in 1917. Regardless if viewers have any religious or spiritual beliefs or not, the movie is so boring that it treats the subject matter as if should be told as a repetitive and droning religious lecture instead of an intriguing story with richly detailed characters. Unfortunately, director Marco Pontecorvo infuses the movie with too much tacky melodrama that cheapens the impact of the “miracle scenes.”

Most of the movie takes place in 1917, when Portugal was fighting in World War I, but parts of the movie are intercut with scenes that take place in 1989. In the 1989 scenes, an elderly Portuguese Catholic nun named Sister Lúcia (played by Sônia Braga) is being interviewed by an American visitor named Professor Nichols (played by Harvey Keitel) at her convent in Coimbra, Portugal. Professor Nichols is a religion scholar who doesn’t believe in miracles, while Sister Lúcia is famous for saying that she experienced miracles.

Professor Nicholas is visiting Sister Lúcia to ask her about her miracle experiences that she had as a child, when she and two of her cousins were at the center of a religious controversy. The professor and the nun agree to disagree on whether or not what she experienced was real. And they admit that have both have a fascination with people who have views that are opposite of their own opinions. Sister Lúcia laments to Professor Nichols that people still haven’t learned from the messages of peace that she got from her heavenly visions.

The movie’s flashbacks to 1917 show that 10-year-old Lúcia (played by Stephanie Gil) was a spirited and fairly obedient child who lived with her family in the village of Aljustrel, on the outskirts of Fátima, Portugal. Lúcia frequently accompanies her strict and religious mother Maria (played by Lúcia Moniz) to the village for shopping trips. Maria and Lúcia also gather in the village square for announcements about which local soldiers have died or have been declared missing. These tension-filled and emotional scenes demonstrate the harsh realities of war experienced by the soldiers’ loved ones who are left behind to worry about the soldiers’ well-being and fate.

“Fatima” doesn’t waste time showing that Lúcia has the ability to see religious visions. In one of the movie’s early scenes, Lúcia is in a cave, where she not only sees and hears a female angel, but Lúcia also sees visions of her bother Ti Manuel, also known as Manuel (played by Elmano Sancho), who is a soldier in the war. This scene is an example of the simplistic dialogue and schmaltzy direction that plague most of this movie.

“Who are you?” Lúcia asks the angel. The angel replies, “I am the angel of peace. I am the angel of Portugal.” While Lúcia sees terrible visions of a battlefield, she calls out desperately to Manuel, while doom and gloom music plays as if Lúcia is in a haunted house. “They don’t seem to want to stop,” the angel says of the people fighting in the war. The angel then leads Lúcia in a prayer session.

Lúcia comes from a family of farmers, so she helps out as a shepherd. One day, while she and her two younger cousins Jacinta (played by Alejandra Howard) and Francisco (played by Jorge Lamelas) are outside playing in a remote field in Fátima, they see a vision of the Virgin Mary (played by Joana Ribeiro). Actually, Lúcia sees the Virgin Mary first, and then Jacinta and Francisco see the Virgin Mary too.

Lúcia is the one with the best communication with the Virgin Mary, since the Virgin Mary speaks directly with Lúcia at all times, while Jacinta and Francisco (who are siblings) sometimes can’t hear what the Virgin Mary is saying. The Virgin Mary tells the three children that they must meet her at that location at the same time, every month for the next six months. Lúcia and Francisco tell Jacinta to keep this vision a secret, but Jacinta tells her parents, and soon the word spreads, causing alarm with some of the adults in the area.

Lúcia’s mother Maria is immediately skeptical that the children saw the Virgin Mary. She takes Lúcia to see a priest named Father Ferreira (played by Joaquim de Almeida), who also doubts that Lúcia is telling the truth. He warns Maria that even if Lúcia saw any visions, these visions could be the devil working in disguise. This thought makes Maria more determined to get Lúcia to try to go back to being a “normal” child, especially when Maria thinks that Lúcia could be branded as mentally ill or possessed by the devil.

Maria’s methods of controlling Lúcia are sometimes harsh and abusive, since she punishes Lúcia by slapping her and making threats, such as telling Lúcia that if these visions ruin the family, Maria will never forgive Lúcia. Maria also becomes irrational when she tells Lúcia that if Manuel doesn’t come back to the family, it will all be Lúcia’s fault, as if Lúcia has some kind of control over what happens during the war. Lúcia, Jacinta and Francisco also risk getting punished by their parents because they are determined to keep their promise to meet the Virgin Mary at the same place and time, every month for the next six months.

Lúcia’s father António (played by Marco D’Almeida) tries to be more understanding of the situation and doesn’t react as angrily as his wife Maria does. But António’s patience starts to wear thin after the word spreads of these miracle visions, and all the publicity starts to negatively affect the family’s well-being and safety. Crowds of people flock to the area and walk all over the family’s farming territory, which thereby ruin the crops that the family relies on for their food and income.

Lúcia’s family also starts to experience random strangers coming to their home unannounced to see the “miracle child.” Many of these strangers are on a quest to have their problems solved just by visiting Lúcia, because they believe that Lúcia’s visions come with special healing powers. Maria reacts by telling these unwelcome visitors that they have the wrong house and angrily sends them away. Maria then blames Lúcia for causing these problems for the family.

Meanwhile, Fátima’s ambitious mayor Arturo (played by Goran Višnjić) is inclined to doubt the stories of Virgin Mary visions and miracles happing at the location where the three kids see the Virgin Mary. For example, when a boy with paralyzed legs begins to have slight movement of his legs after vising the “miracle site,” Arturo says that it’s not a miracle because doctors had predicted that the legs would eventually heal with the right attitude and medical therapy.

Arturo is also concerned about how the crowds have turned his city into a public spectacle. He conspires to punish Lúcia, Franciso, and Jacinta, because he thinks that if the stories are all a hoax, it will ruin the reputation of not just the city of Fatima but also his own reputation. And he gets even more anxious about how to deal with the situation when higher-ups in the Catholic Church start to investigate these “miracle sightings.” A visit from Monsenhor Quaresma (played by Joao D’Ávila) ensures that Arturo will be thinking more about his career ambitions rather than any religious messages that come from the Virgin Mary.

One of the biggest problems with “Fatima” is the uneven quality of acting from the three children playing Lúcia, Francisco and Jacinta. Gil (as Lúcia) is an experienced film actor, while Lamelas (as Franciso) and Howard (as Jacinta) make their feature-film debuts in “Fatima.” That lack of experience shows in Lamelas and Howard’s acting, which isn’t at the same level as Gil’s acting talent. It wouldn’t be such a big issue if these three children weren’t at the center of the movie.

The wooden acting in the movie (and not just by some of the children) isn’t the only problem. The screenplay (written by director Pontecaro, Valerio D’Annunzio and Barbara Nicolosi) gets stuck on this monotonous repetition of occurrences: The three kids see the visions. Some of the skeptical adults get annoyed because they don’t believe the children. More people show up to try to witness miracles in person. And the kids getting blamed for anything that goes wrong.

All the characters are written as fairly two-dimensional. The movie doesn’t give enough screen time to Professor Nichols and Sister Lúcia, the only characters in the movie that show hints of having any real depth. It would have been interesting to hear Professor Nichols and Sister Lúcia debate their different opinions over what happened to Lúcia in 1917, when she first reported her visions of the Virgin Mary. But that type of dialogue is avoided in the movie when Professor Nichols tells Sister Lúcia that he doesn’t want to offend her by expressing his skeptical views to her.

And although religious beliefs are a serious matter to a lot of people, “Fatima” pours on such over-the-top schmaltz that some viewers might laugh at how hokey the movie’s scenes are in portraying these religious beliefs. The stilted and unrealistic dialogue, the substandard visual effects and the movie’s overall lumbering tone stifle any unique and high-quality creativity that this film could have had. Whether or not people believe that these Virgin Mary visions really happened, “Fatima” does a disservice to the story by presenting the people involved as tedious and forgettable characters instead of fascinating people.

Picturehouse will release “Fatima” in select U.S. cinemas and VOD on August 28, 2020.

Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort debuts in Portugal

April 8, 2017

Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal
Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal. (Photo courtesy of Anatara Hotels and Resorts)

Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas has launched Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal.  It is the Thailand-based company’s first property in Europe.

The following is an excerpt from an Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort press release:

Just a 15-minute drive from Faro International Airport, Anantara Vilamoura is located close to the ocean, marinas and beaches of the Algarve and boasts stunning views of the Arnold Palmer- designed Oceânico Golf Course. All of the resort’s 280 newly upgraded guest rooms boast soft touches reflecting the natural woods and fibres of the region creating a chic and comforting place to relax and unwind. Anantara Vilamoura has teamed up with local artisans from the TASA Project and some unique pieces can be found in the 17 Anantara Suites, where guests can appreciate the hand woven pool bags, locally sourced cork coasters and signature Algarvian ceramic fruit bowls. Further comforts include an in-room wine humidor, pillow menu and on-call butler service to attend to guests’ every need.

 To make holidays a truly relaxing experience for parents and kids alike, Anantara has partnered with World Wide Kids Company, the resort childcare specialist. The new Adventurers Crèche and the Adventurers Kids Club, which will open mid-May, will offer cooking classes, open air cinema, adventure safaris and more. Teens will be able to make new friends and play it cool at The Hub, as well as take part in golf clinics and the dance academy.

At a resort where indulgence blends indigenous elements and international flair, the newly renovated Anantara Spa offers a wide selection of therapies including the signature Traditional Thai Massage in dedicated rooms, centuries-old Ayurveda rituals, and treatments using locally-sourced ingredients such as Algarvian citrus fruits, figs and almond powder. Healing continues through the wellness programme with yoga and tai chi sessions on offer.

Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal
Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal. (Photo courtesy of Anatara Hotels and Resorts)

Culinary excellence is at the heart of the Portuguese culture. Using his deep expertise in Portugal’s culinary traditions, Executive Chef Bruno Viegas has woven his passion throughout Anantara Vilamoura’s six bars and restaurants. A new wine oriented restaurant concept comes to life at EMO, where Bruno and the resort’s Wine Guru António Lopes have masterfully created a menu that reflects the terroir heritage of the region. Focusing on Portuguese grape varieties and local produce, the duo elegantly pair dishes such as Braised Turbot, Salt Cod Loins and Pata Negra Ham with a selection of over 300 accompanying wines from the region, allowing diners to savour the tastes of the country.

Opening on May 1, 2017, the new lunchtime restaurant Ria will serve freshly caught fish and seafood emulating a traditional Marisqueira or seafood bistro commonly found along the secluded Ria Formosa lagoon, located a short distance away. The restaurant will showcase choice catches such as Quarteira Prawns, Goose Barnacles, and Wild Caught Turbot, with the Raw Bar serving ceviche and carpaccios from the Algarve. The fresh ocean produce will be paired with crisp white and rosé wines to round off guests’ alfresco dining experience.

Preserving the heritage of the hotel’s previous incarnation as Tivoli Victoria, the all-day dining restaurant Victoria carries on the legacy as a warm meeting place, gathering cultures and tastes in one place for refined à la carte or lavish buffet style dining. Live food stations draw attention to recipes from in-house chefs as they lovingly prepare dishes from their home towns, served alongside the bold flavours of Thai cuisine, epitomising the origins of Anantara.

Anantara’s signature culinary concepts offer unique and engaging experiences. Presenting one of the most diverse Portuguese wine collections in the Algarve, resident Wine Guru António Lopes, who was voted Best Sommelier of Portugal in 2014, will host tasting sessions. Guests can also experience the Wine Guru’s expertise when indulging in “Dining by Design,” which offers a choice of connoisseur menus coupled with idyllic settings, alongside the services of a personal chef and butler. Travellers with a sense of adventure can learn how to create Portugal’s fresh and flavoursome dishes in a “Spice Spoons” cooking class, which combines a visit to the nearby Loulé fresh food market with an interactive cooking class in an open theatre kitchen with the chef.

Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal
Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort in Portugal. (Photo courtesy of Anatara Hotels and Resorts)

Befitting its location overlooking the championship Oceânico Golf Course, Anantara Vilamoura boasts a one-of-a-kind Golf Guru, ensuring golfing holidays are not only seamless, but perfectly tailored to each golfer´s needs, whatever their handicap.

Guests can discover the well-kept secrets of the Algarve with a myriad of activities and guided excursions, including a tasting tour of the ubiquitous Ria Formosa with oyster shucking and freshly prepared seafood from a local fisherman; or escape to the countryside with a local guru who transcends your afternoon into a historical adventure through the local villages and towns surrounding the area.

The resort offers spectacular settings and venues for all types of events, from VIP dinners and weddings, to product launches and large scale conferences. The stand-alone Conference Centre has capacity for up to 800 people in its eight versatile meeting spaces, most with natural light, and offers direct access for both delegates and set up vehicles, as well as to the hotel car park.