Although it evokes both the classic Helen Keller biopic The Miracle Worker and Jodie Foster's 1994 Nell, Marie's Story (now playing in Los Angeles) nevertheless forges its own path as a movie, and a respectfully Catholic one at that. It recounts the true story of Marie Heurtin, an unfortunate girl born both blind and deaf to indigent parents in late-19th century France. A local convent that specialized in teaching hearing-impaired girls initially refused Marie admittance, but the saintly Sister Marguerite took pity on her and convinced their Mother Superior to let her take a crack at reaching the understandably unruly child.
Jean-Pierre Ameris' film, co-written by Philippe Blasband, is a beautifully shot (by Virginie Saint-Martin) testament to the power of faith, perseverance and love as it depicts Sr. Marguerite's tireless efforts to socialize Marie. That Marguerite was dying of tuberculosis at the time makes her determination all the more resonant. Isabelle Carre and Ariana Rivoire give stunning, physically rough and tumble performances as the nun and her charge, respectively.
Two scenes in the film stand out as its emotional and dramatic high points. The first comes when Marie is presented to her parents for the first time after her "rehabilitation." Her parents are believably stunned at first but quickly resort to their lovingly tactile way of communicating with their disabled daughter. The second scene comes when Sr. Marguerite has to explain death to Marie by having her fully explore the lifeless body of an older nun who passes away unexpectedly. And one will want tissue handy during the climactic scenes where Marie devotedly tends to her teacher as she lays dying. Marie's Story is one worth telling and seeing.
Its too bad that Disney's current Tomorrowland is already being dubbed the first big-budget flop of the summer. This refreshingly optimistic sci-fi adventure inspired by the company's theme park district posits, among other things, that there is or at least was a secret time-travel device stowed beneath It's a Small World. When a young boy, Frank, discovers this during the 1964 World's Fair (where It's a Small World made its pre-Disneyland debut), he embarks on a journey that will remain with him as a disgruntled adult played by George Clooney.
Frank is reluctantly drawn back to Tomorrowland by Casey, a forward-looking young woman (engagingly played by Under the Dome's Britt Robertson) who discovers its existence after being bequeathed with a special pin by the mysterious, ageless Athena (the splendid Raffey Cassidy, who holds her own with Clooney in several decidedly emotionally-mature scenes). Soon, the three are on the run from grinning Audio-Animatronic assassins under the employ of the future's villainous Governor Nix (Hugh Laurie).
As written by Lost's Damon Lindelof and directed by the great Brad Bird (who also co-wrote the screenplay), Tomorrowland contains enough plot mechanics and dazzling special effects to fuel a few summer blockbusters. The movie's visual centerpiece involves a massive time-traveling rocket tucked within the Eiffel Tower that launches in spectacular fashion. Unfortunately, the storyline may be too complex and mature for younger viewers, which may explain Tomorrowland's current under-performance at the box office. Adults and teens however, especially those with a fetish for all things Disneyland-ish, will find much to appreciate and enjoy.
Marie's Story: B+
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.