First film by Argentine helmer Alejandro Doria (“Esperando la Carroza”) after a 16-year hiatus, “Las Manos” disappoints as a straightforward, lackluster drama. Story of a gifted priest who’s misunderstood by his superiors rarely rises above the level of a telenovela. Unlikely to generate much enthusiasm Stateside or in non-Hispanic markets, pic appears destined to remain a festival footnote.
Doria and co-scribe Juan Bautista Stagnaro, develop some pointed criticism of the Roman Catholic Church in this tale of a beloved Argentine priest, Mario Pantaleo (Jorge Marrale), who is defrocked for practicing faith-healing. With help from former parishioner Perla (Graciela Borges), Father Mario, who once studied anatomy, quietly establishes a small rural parish, but when word of his talents gets out, the Vatican dispatches a young priest (Esteban Perez) to spy on him, whereupon he’s again denied a parish. The ailing Mario takes his case to Rome, only to be told, “The Church is not a democracy.” Just as the Church investigates whether this gentle man of the cloth is a dangerous renegade or a truly gifted healer, Doria weighs the Vatican’s need to adapt versus its responsibilities to tradition.