The Nun's Story (1959)
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- 149 min.
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Audrey Hepburn is probably watchable in anything, but as a Belgian nun in the '30s and '40s? Well, yes! The Nun's Story, based on a tell-all, may be a bit long and sag in the middle, but Hepburn keeps you hanging on with as efficient a performance as any she's given as Sister Luke. What is most striking about the film is the look inside the convent and just how CULTISH it feels. Sister Luke enters the order because she wants to be a nurse in impoverished countries (specifically, the Belgian Congo), but spiritual ambitions contrary to her nature keep being forced on her. The film thus explores the contradiction between the Church's role (doing good works surely among them) and the clergy's purpose (devotion to the faith), and the irony is that Sister Luke is a better nun for feeling she fails the various tests her order and life plague her with. I dare say most would just sweep their sins (and we're talking about an inability to void the self here, very abstract) under the carpet and fake it. Things may have changed since the era pictured, or they may not, but how things are/were done, especially one's entry into and exit from the sisterhood, is completely riveting.
Classic, old-fashioned cinematography, but the story is a bit too slow and drawn out.
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In 4 official lists
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This movie ranks #28 in National Board of Review - Best Film
This movie ranks #222 in Academy Award Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #621 in The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made
This movie ranks #760 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown