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Third Miracle

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Third Miracle

Starring: Ed Hrris, Anne Heche
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Rated: R
RunTime: 119 Minutes
Release Date: December 1999
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Charles Haid, Jean-Louis Roux, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Michael Rispoli, Ken James

Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

Finally, we witness a film about priests and miracles that does not condescend to the audience by featuring superfluous special-effects or a demonic Patricia Arquette. "The Third Miracle" is a bloody miracle, an extremely well-acted and thematically rich film by notable director Agnieszka Holland ("Europa, Europa").

Ed Harris stars as Father Frank Shore, a postulator, known by many as the "miracle killer," who is seen at the start of the film working at a soup kitchen. He is called back into duty to investigate a woman who may or may not be a saint but is loved by the people of a Chicago community all the same. Every November, the people gather to see a statue that weeps blood - this is coincidentally the month in which Helen O'Regan (Barbara Sukowa) - the supposed saint - died. There is talk that she cured a young girl of lupus by simply touching the girl.

Father Shore has his doubts but the blood is discovered to be real, and the girl, now a drug-addicted runaway, was cured of lupus. But can there be some doubt that this is all highly coincidental? Is Father Shore the right priest to investigate since years earlier he had debunked the myth of another saint and thus destroyed the faith of an entire community? There is also the question that a saint would never leave his or her children behind to pursue faith. Such is the case with the late Helen, who abandoned her daughter, Roxanne (Anne Heche). Roxanne is angry at her mother and feels she could never be deemed a saint.

"The Third Miracle" asks lots of questions and justifiably answers very few of them. Father Shore may have doubts about his own faith (as most priests do in the movies nowadays) but this is a job, and it is one he where he must be nonjudgmental. He has his own emotional flaws, such as the possibility of falling in love with Roxanne. He also has to fight against the devil's advocate, Archbishop Werner (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a ferociously stubborn man who feels the world has no need for more saints or miracles. But sainthood is a tricky judgment, it has to be proved and tested and Father Shore goes against all odds in pursuing the truth and, thus, waiting for another miracle.

Ed Harris does solid work (as always) as the dubious Father Shore, one of the few actors on the silver screen whom you can tell when his mind is at work. He has a very touching, effective scene with Heche, as she visits her mother's grave and they talk about the good Father's flirtations and loss of virginity in high school. Some of this was also featured in the horrible "Stigmata," but here Harris makes it all credible and believable. Anne Heche is sprightly and alive as always...and she shares lots of emotionally implicit scenes with Harris.

"The Third Miracle" is not a great film (I am tired of seeing statues weeping blood, for one, and the ending is abrupt) but it is richly rewarding and tastefully done. It leaves you thinking about what the church constitutes as miracles nowadays, and what a saint's credentials should be. Ultimately, it is a fascinating look at the nature and question of faith in the church. And thanks to Ed Harris, we almost come close to believing that any miracle may be possible.

Copyright 2000 Jerry Saravia

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