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The Underrated Spiritual Drama That's Taking Off On Netflix

Nestled between the likes of showier and much-hyped options like Bridgerton and The Queen's Gambit (which actually isn't a true story), sits a quieter offering just waiting for Netflix viewers to discover it. 

Fatima is a 2020 film from director Marco Pontecorvo that tells the story of a series of dramatic events in 1917 Portugal that has come to be known as the Miracle of the Sun. As the Washington Post described it in a look back on the event's 100th anniversary, the story began with three young children who saw a vision of an entity who told them he was appearing to them as "an angel of peace." Though the children reportedly saw the angel appear to them twice more, 9-year old Lucia and her younger cousins Jacinta and Francisco were reluctant to share what they had seen. 

At the time of the sightings, Portugal was deeply entrenched in World War I, and the notion of an angel promising peace must have seemed like a kind of salvation. On May 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to the children, vowing to return each month, and promising future miracles. It was these promises that set in motion a dramatic series of events that not only changed the lives of those present, but would turn the site into a pilgrimage for believers that is still visited more than a hundred years later (via Afar).

Fatima tells a story of faith triumphing over doubt

The story of the three shepherd children is at the heart of the film, which recounts the doubt and scorn the children endured (along with much worse). In the trailer, Harvey Keitel, playing a journalist investigating the accounts years later, can be seen interviewing the now-adult Lucia (played by veteran Sonia Braga) who has become a nun but is still convinced she hasn't "done enough to please [her] Mother." 

The uncertainty regarding which mother Lucia is referring to — not to mention the inclusion of two actors instantly recognizable to American audiences — is a handy hook to attract viewers who might initially scoff at a faith-based film. And make no mistake about it, though Keitel shared with Page Six that he believed the story at the heart of the film was "ambiguous," this is a deeply religious film. In fact, the film's official website even features a "Praise" section for the film that consists of raves from a Cardinal, Bishop, and several Archbishops. So the clergy's down, but what do critics and viewers think?

Here's what people are saying about Netflix's Fatima

While this is only director Marco Pontecorvo's third feature, he's logged plenty of experience as a director of photography on projects like Rome and Game of Thrones – shows that instantly call to mind beautiful locations and sweeping vistas. Perhaps that's why the film has earned raves for its cinematography. And while reviews from film critics have been mixed (the New York Times had some issues), there's little doubt of the film's reverence for its subject matter. 

As Plugged In put it, "Fatima is a well-crafted, very Catholic and (in its own reverent way) quite provocative piece of filmmaking." Whether that calls to you is largely a personal matter of preference or even spiritual curiosity. Though the film's audience may be niche, its messaging is not. While we may not be in the midst of a world war, there's no doubt the past year has been challenging for most, and tested the faith of many. For viewers who are looking for a little comfort amid the chaos, a film like Fatima may have come along at just the right time.