The pope is scheduled to visit Australia early in 1995 and, to beatify Sister Mary MacKillop, this cheaply made effort has been hurriedly slapped together. Combo of talking-heads documentary and enacted biography succeeds on neither level, but appeal to the Catholic faithful may give it a useful vid career.
With a bigger budget and a much better screenplay, “Mary” might have been of wider interest, because MacKillop certainly had an interesting life. Born in Melbourne in 1842, she was profoundly affected by the poverty among the lower classes in the colony, and especially by the plight of uneducated children. In 1860 she came under the influence of a priest, Father Woods, and with him she founded the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph, dedicating herself to teaching children, regardless of religious background, race or social status.
Her opposition to the Catholic hierarchy of the period led to her excommunication in 1871, a sentence lifted a year later. Nevertheless, she continued to struggle with her superiors at the church.
Unfortunately, Mary’s story makes little impact in Kay Pavlou’s film, which is divided between a quartet of talking-head commentators and perfunctory enacted scenes in which, for most of the pic, Lucy Bell essays the role of Mary. Formula lacks dramatic tension and momentum and severely limits the story’s appeal.
Production values are meager. Pavlou fared far better with her previous pic, the punchy “The Killing of Angelo Tsakos,” which was prized at the San Francisco fest last year.