Tuesday, July 28, 2015


During a time of war in Spain, an orphaned infant is left at the door of a monastery. The monks are charged with finding a permanent home for him, but because they want to keep him, they don't try very hard. Finally they reject the mayor's demand that he be given the boy—even when the mayor threatens to evict the monks—and so they wind up raising him, calling him Marcelino. He grows into a rambunctious but likeable lad who wonders why he doesn't have a mother like his village buddy Manuel. Though he's been forbidden from wandering up to the monastery attic, one day he does; there he finds a life-sized damaged wooden crucifix. At first, Marcelino is scared of it, but soon he begins talking to Jesus, going so far as to bring bread and wine to the figure on the cross because he looks hungry. Suddenly, we see (from a vantage point behind the crucifix) the wooden arm of Jesus become human, taking the food and drink from the boy. The two share meals and chat, and when Marcelino tells Jesus that his fondest wish is to be reunited with his mother, Jesus makes it happen.

[SPOILER] Most reviewers of this film, especially ones of the Catholic persuasion, like it and find it heartwarming. As a former Catholic, I do have a soft spot for mystical religious fantasies (like THE BISHOP’S WIFE) and even the occasional non-mystical non-fantasies (GOING MY WAY). But this one, though well-made, comes off like a creepy Twilight Zone episode: Marcelino gets his wish because he dies. Off the top of my head (and aside from versions of LITTLE WOMEN in which the doomed child is more a supporting than starring role) I can only think of one other classic-era movie in which a central child character dies, the 1939 fantasy ON BORROWED TIME. I have to say that killing off a child whom you assume will live is an effective way to stun a viewer, and it works well in ON BORROWED TIME, but here, it just seems unsavory. The boy in BORROWED seems unhappy with his life on earth, but Marcelino does not—Jesus couldn't think of a better way to handle this kid's wish? I didn't dislike this movie—indeed, I would commend it for being different—but I think the people on IMDb who call it tender-hearted or inspiring or sensible either saw a different movie or need a dictionary. [DVD]

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