'Stella Days' - Movie Review

"Stella Days" spends a long winter with Father Daniel Berry (Martin Sheen) in a small Irish town in the 1950s. One of the first things he does is pack to leave: he thinks he's headed back to his beloved Rome. But the local cardinal yanks that away from him (insulting him as an "intellectual" and "someone who thinks he's better than us"), leaving him in the purgatory of this tiny town. Berry is then involved in the hiring of a young man as a teacher at the local school - although the man's primary qualifications seem to be an interest in cinema as great as Berry's. The cardinal also tells Berry he can go to Rome - once he's raised money for a new church in his very poor area. Berry decides the solution is picture house to raise the spirits of the people - and raise money, of course. Despite the resistance of the town's incredibly conservative politician (no one else seems to mind much).

Scenes are well acted and there's a coherent plot that gets from A to B. But the movie doesn't have a single plot point that it actually wraps up: every single one of them is left dangling. The same can be said about the questions it raises: are we supposed to be thinking about the unfairness of Father Berry's position? How he got into the church? His liberality in a conservative, podunk town? The inevitable advance of technology? (The introduction of electricity to the town plays a large part in the movie.) Unfaithfulness to a husband who's gone for a year at a time and is violent when he comes home? Whether or not a young boy truly knows he has the calling to the church at the age of 10? The movie opens all these questions - and many more - and provides answers to none of them. I'm not asking that it should answer them all (in fact I'd prefer it didn't), but it should at least offer some arguments for or against some of the questions. Instead it raises a huge batch of questions and then just stops.

I found out from Wikipedia (not from the movie) that this was based on an actual occurrence in Ireland: a priest who started a movie theatre in a small town. If it was about that, it should have concentrated more on that aspect.

As I say, it's well acted and fits its time and place well enough. But it's a focus-less mess.