More than one hundred years ago the Virgin Mary performed the miracle of the dancing sun in Portugal.  It’s arguably one of the most famous Marian apparitions. Fatima (2020) is a contemporary retelling, though not the first. In 1952 Warner Bros made The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima and the Fatima producers procured the rights to it before making this version.

If you’ve not heard of Fatima, then briefly in 1917 the Virgin Mary visited three peasant children. They told other villagers of a woman/angel bathed in light who asked them to say the Rosary every day. And even though many doubted their story, the word spread and soon thousands of people came to see Mary. On her final visitation, a miracle, the dancing sun, was seen by tens of thousands of people and reported in newspapers around the world. Pilgrims still visit the site today.

The movie opens in 1989 when Professor Nichols (Harvey Keitel) visits Lucia (Sonia Braga), the last surviving child who is now an elderly (but surprisingly youthful looking) nun in a convent. Nichols is everyman – he is the sceptic asking Lucia the hard questions “why would Mary appear to illiterate children”, “what did she think you’d be able to do” etc. Her answers are vague but allow for flashbacks to 1917, and Lucia can retell the original events.

The drama unfolds as the children, especially young Lucia (Stephanie Gil) faces the wrath of her parents, clergy and the town mayor (Goran Visnjic). Yes, at the movie’s heart is a tussle over faith, but the subtext is peace. Mary pleads for the children to pray for world peace and the villagers are reminded daily of the cost of war the mayor reads a lengthy list of the village’s casualties.

Since 40 AD dozens of visions of Mary have been documented; the most recent was in Medjugorje (Giza, Egypt) on 8th September 2020. Even if you are not a believer, the movie recounts a fascinating chapter in Marian apparitions.

Fatima is currently showing. 113 minutes. Rating M.

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