Friday Night Mandatory Lent Film Party, 2021 edition

During Lent this year, our family be doing the same thing we did last year: Going screen-free from 7-9 PM, except on Fridays, when we will come together to watch an edifying, well-made movie, preferably with some spiritual theme. The kids were not crazy about this idea, but they ended up liking some of the movies in spite of themselves, and we had some good conversations even about the ones they didn’t like. 

Our proposed watch list for this year includes some that we didn’t get around to last year, and a few new ideas:

Fátima (2020) I don’t think much of Barbara Nicolosi’s work in general, but Steve Greydanus found this movie an improvement over previous movies about Fatima, and it sounds like the didn’t go all oogy-boogy with special effects. 


Ushpizin (2004) My mother was always begging and pleading with everyone to watch this movie, and I never got around to it. It looks really worth while. 
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes:

Moshe (Shuli Rand) and Malli (Michal Bat-Sheva Rand), an Orthodox Jewish couple in Jerusalem, are childless and without means to celebrate the weeklong holiday of Succoth. After much prayer, they receive unexpected money, and Moshe is told about an abandoned shack where he and Malli can properly deprive themselves and receive guests. However, they are visited by two ex-convicts with an unexpected link to Moshe’s past, and the celebration becomes a series of emotional trials.


The Keys To the Kingdom
Synopsis from imdb:

A young priest, Father Chisholm is sent to China to establish a Catholic parish among the non-Christian Chinese. While his boyhood friend, also a priest, flourishes in his calling as a priest in a more Christian area of the world, Father Chisholm struggles. He encounters hostility, isolation, disease, poverty and a variety of set backs which humble him, but make him more determined than ever to succeed. Over the span of many years he gains acceptance and a growing congregation among the Chinese, through his quiet determination, understanding and patience. 



Calvary Definitely just for the oldest kids.

Silence Also for the oldest kids.

Of Gods and Men. Somehow this completely passed me by when it came out in 2010. Synopsis:

“Eight French Christian monks live in harmony with their Muslim brothers in a monastery perched in the mountains of North Africa in the 1990s. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps though the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Should they leave? Despite the growing menace in their midst, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay… come what may. This film is loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996.”

The Passion of Joan of Arc, maybe?? This one looks pretty bonkers but gorgeous. One kid is taking a film class in high school and the other got a subscription to the Critereon Collection for Christmas, so there has been some Widening Of Horizons lately, and I think a silent movie might be well received. 

Fiddler on the Roof. This one doesn’t uhhh quite fit in with the others, but we haven’t seen it in ages and ages, and nobody’s ever in the mood to start it. I think the older kids remember it as mostly a tragedy, which is certainly is not. I like having a lot of options, so we can choose something that makes sense at the time. 

A Hidden Life (although, three hours, I dunno!)

The Young Messiah 

Paul, Apostle of Christ. Less excited about this one, but it’s supposed to be pretty solid. 

Millions. A bit of stretch. We saw this movie years ago and I remember thinking, “What the hell was that?” But it was interesting, probably worth another watch. Same director who did Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire.

Other possibilities:

Beckett or A Man For All Seasons, but probably not both. I actually bitterly disliked both these movies when I was young, but I should probably give them another viewing as an adult. 

Song of Bernadette I’ve still never seen this movie. I have less and less patience for Hollywood Catholicism, but I’m willing to be talked into it, especially since this list needs more movies that the younger kids can watch.

Well, that should be enough to keep us busy. 

Here’s my reviews for the movies we watched last year:

I Confess

The Robe

The Trouble With Angels

Babette’s Feast

Lilies of the Field

We also watched The Miracle Maker, but I don’t seem to have reviewed this one. We thought it was weird but powerful, and we overall gave a thumbs-up to the portrayal of Jesus. 

(The Passion of the Christ) We didn’t watch this one, but I did write a review of it a few years ago.


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11 thoughts on “Friday Night Mandatory Lent Film Party, 2021 edition”

  1. I do recommend A Hidden Life. I watched it on an airplane, knowing nothing about it but the other choices were horrible. By the end I was really hoping the plane wouldn’t land before it finished. It’s about a man who wouldn’t take the oath of loyalty to Hitler and the terrible consequences he faced for that. The line I remember most is when he’s in jail and his lawyer is telling him how simple it would be to sign the oath and he could go back to his village and his family and he would be free. And he replied, “I am free.”

  2. Thanks for these suggestions, and the nudge to do this at our house too.

    We finally watched “Song of Bernadette” last year, and I was favorably surprised; I had been a bit prejudiced against it as Hollywood cheese. It had more subtlety than I expected, for sure.

  3. I see someone has already beat me to it, but I was going to say that you and your family might enjoy “The Chosen”. It takes some imaginative liberties in fleshing out the lives and characters of the apostles, but it’s engaging and a reminder that they were all real people, not identical men in robes.

    1. There’s also a movie called “The Chosen” based upon Chaim Potok’s book of the same name. I don’t remember if I ever saw the movie but I had to read the book in high school and I loved it. It’s about two Jewish boys from different traditions in 1940’s Brooklyn.

      Despite (or perhaps because of) very different fathers the boys form a deep friendship. The study of secular Psychology versus piety and Zionism all loom large. The film starred Robby Benson who was a Tiger Beat heartthrob of the day. With no memory of the film, I can’t fairly recommend it, but I would assume it would be interesting viewing for all but maybe the youngest kids.

  4. I love, love, love the weirdness of The Passion of Joan of Arc and actually anything directed by Carl Dreyer. The score from the Anonymous 4 is haunting and such a good addition.

  5. Have you seen the Tv series Chosen? It’s about the calling of the apostles- fabulous portrayal of real humans and the best on screen Christ I’ve yet encountered.

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