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‘Cabrini’ Stuns in More Ways Than One

Fact-based drama delivers gorgeous cinematography behind star's bravura turn

Frances Xavier Cabrini wouldn’t take no for an answer.

The Italian immigrant known as Mother Cabrini pushed past patriarchal bullies, making history with every selfless act.

She’s no Girlboss, just the remarkable Saint at the center of “Cabrini.”

The big-screen take on Mother Cabrini’s life is worthy of its subject matter. Sweeping in scope and dazzling from start to finish, “Cabrini” celebrates faith, persistence and the power to bulldoze past doubt.

Cristiana Dell’Anna brings an earthy grit to our heroine, supporting a story that demands nothing less than an A-list performance.

Dell’Anna obliges.

Cabrini | Final Trailer | Angel Studios

Mother Cabrini longs to set up a children’s orphanage in China and later expand her work into the West.

She’s tasked with the opposite mission. Transform New York’s rat-infested Five Points neighborhood into a haven for lost children.

If successful, she can build from there.

Good luck. 

Italian immigrants are spat upon circa the late 1800s, the time period when Mother Cabrini set out to change the world. New Yorkers deemed them second-class citizens, at best. Some heaped ethnic slurs upon anyone with olive skin.

It’s just one of many obstacles in Mother Cabrini’s way, including her failing health. Doctors warn she’ll be lucky to live another five years, and she better spend that time preserving her strength in bed.

Nonsense.

She has work to do, children to save and lives to turn around. Her combination of blunt personal charm and indefatigable spirit can overcome any adversity.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Dell’Anna is a force of nature in the title role, ensuring the future Saint’s grit flows from a deeply spiritual core. Like recent faith-based dramas, “Cabrini” doesn’t preach or bog the narrative down in talking points.

Viewers grasp the title character’s faith and fortitude. She need not say a word.

Show, don’t tell.

“Cabrini” is catnip for progressive audiences, at least on paper. Mother Cabrini stared down the era’s male-dominated society, daring doubters to dismiss her dreams. She worked relentlessly for immigrants, demanding they be treated with respect and compassion.

What’s missing? The ham-fisted lectures and one-dimensional portraits seen in some progressive films.

Director Alejandro G√≥mez Monteverde (“Bella, “Sound of Freedom”) has a marvelous way of seeing the beauty in bleak landscapes. His film is gorgeous from start to finish, even when we’re lurking about seedy neighborhoods and dilapidated buildings.

One sequence, which lasts but a few seconds, is so stunning you’ll want to hit the pause button to soak it all in. 

The screenplay brushes up to screen formulas without over-indulging. And when Mother Cabrini is afforded a few lines that might be woke in other settings, the sentiment is so well earned you can’t help but cheer. It’s a shame the story doesn’t embrace some of Mother Cabrini’s fellow nuns. We’d like to learn more about them, too.

Supporting players David Morse and John Lithgow add gravitas to the production. Lithgow, no stranger to scenery snacking, holds back as a bigoted Big Apple mayor.

Wise.

He’s on screen for just a few minutes, but his character is so reprehensible you can feel his presence throughout the third act.

Mother Cabrini’s duels with the Pope, played with puckish authority by Giancarlo Giannini, offer another highlight.

“Cabrini” could use a nip or two to reduce its running time, and the film sags slightly in the second act. Still, the drama feels like a throwback to another time, when spiritual heroes got the Hollywood close-ups they deserved.

HiT or Miss: “Cabrini” is the kind of film Hollywood once made with regularity. It’s steeped in faith, larger-than-life achievements and a star worthy of every close-up.

3 Comments

  1. What a disappointing movie! Before seeing the film, I had never heard of this woman so knew nothing about her. After seeing it, all I know is that she apparently relied only on her own strength and grit to care for some Italian immigrant orphans and start some hospitals because of some sort of ambition and dedication to girl power. Was there even one mention in the film or even an allusion to why she was doing it (devotion to God and love of neighbor, I assume)? Was the word God ever mentioned? Was her faith ever mentioned? Was Christ ever mentioned? Was prayer ever mentioned? According to this film, she reached sainthood solely by relying on her own strength. She even says that early in the film. I found it strange and sad. Overall, the film was a little too long and dragged. And I’m not a fan of “girl power” movies. Movies about strong women, I love, but “girl power” is annoying and condescending.

    1. Most of the reviews were respectable/professional. And I have no qualms with critics who didn’t like it for any reason. But the critic you mentioned, and a few others, proved wildly unprofessional in my estimation.

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