NEW YORK (CNS) — Were the Catholic Church to begin giving cinematic imprimaturs, few films would be better qualified to receive one than “Vito Bonafacci” (Cavu), writer-director John Martoccia’s meditative — and theologically impeccable – exploration of Scripture-based doctrine and spirituality.
Paul Borghese plays the title character in this suburban-set Everyman story. Though happily married to loving wife Laura (Tisha Tinsman) and financially successful, Vito’s relationship to the Catholic faith in which he was raised has become tenuous. Indeed, by his own admission, except for the occasional Christmas or Easter liturgy, or family funeral, he hasn’t set foot in church for 25 years.
But a nightmare during which Vito foresees his death and condemnation to hell compels the outwardly content businessman to re-examine his life.
While not for the impatient, since it unfolds at a leisurely pace, the drama thus set in motion features some eloquent poetic reflections from Vito’s deceased mother (Emelise Aleandri) – who visits him during that transformative dream – as well as beautiful cinematography of the lush landscape surrounding Vito’s home.
The spiritual significance underlying everyday tasks is also highlighted in scenes portraying the work of Vito’s cook Marie (Carin Mei), his barber (Ralph Squillace) and his gardener (Louis Vanaria), all of whom the protagonist quizzes about their religious views.
If that latter turn of events seems somewhat unlikely, that’s because the dramatic elements of this story are on occasion — it must be admitted — a bit shaky. The dialogue, too, sounds forced at times because it’s being made subordinate to the (undeniably worthy) points Martoccia’s script is designed to drive home.
Such tendentiousness leaves this restful cinematic retreat ill-equipped to convert the deeply cynical or hard of heart. Evangelical Christians willing to withstand the unabashed Romanism on display, by contrast, will at least find the biblical basis for several core Catholic beliefs laid out in onscreen quotations as Vito’s journey toward conversion reaches its climax.
Whatever its artistic limitations, “Vito Bonafacci” will certainly reinforce faith in the devout and in those with yearnings for the sacred which may, as yet, be rudimentary. Religious educators will also welcome the movie as an apt and pleasant instrument in the catechetical instruction of teenagers or adults.
The film contains a single mildly crass term as well as mature themes and references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.