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Mother Theresa biopic ‘The Letters’ falls flat

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The Letters functions literally as an argument for Mother Teresa’s sainthood.

One and a half stars

The Letters Juliet Stevenson, Max von Sydow, Rutger Hauer. Directed by William Riead. Rated PG. Opens Friday.

Biopics often gloss over the shortcomings of their subjects in favor of hitting the inspirational highlights of their lives, but the Mother Teresa story The Letters takes that one step further, functioning literally as an argument for her sainthood. It’s framed by a Vatican official’s investigation into canonization for the renowned Catholic nun and missionary, and then further framed by the correspondence between Teresa (Juliet Stevenson, sporting a vaguely Eastern European accent) and her longtime spiritual advisor (Max von Sydow).

He describes (and describes, and describes) Teresa’s efforts to minister to the poor and dying in Calcutta, India, which writer-director William Riead depicts with as much liveliness and dramatic tension as a Bible study class. Riead doesn’t have to include the various criticisms of Teresa’s work, but he could at least make her (or anyone else in the movie) an interesting character. In the end, the Vatican official concludes that Teresa absolutely deserves to be a saint. Anyone who sits through this movie probably deserves the same.

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