Thursday, September 22, 2022

Natascha McElhone in a movie set in Malta


Forget the opera. Carmen, a movie from director Valerie Buhagiar, casts Natascha McElhone as a middle-aged woman who has spent much of her life as a kind of servant to her brother (Henry Zammit), a priest in a Maltese village. When the brother dies, McElhone's Carmen finds herself at loose ends. Following tradition, a new priest -- not yet arrived --wants his sister (Michela Farrugia) to tend to the church's chores. Sans money, prospects and shelter, Carmen proves more resourceful than we expect. She also receives help from a pigeon that seems to be guiding her steps, a ploy that pushes the story into fairy tale turf. Necessity drives Carmen to steal keys from a sleeping guard. She opens the church from which she's been banished and hides in the confessional. The story takes an odd turn when parishioners begin confessing to her. Undaunted, Carmen dispenses advice that's both bold and comical. Later, she'll "borrow" some candlesticks and a chalice from the church and sell them to a pawnbroker (Steven Love) in a nearby city. Buhagiar can't paper over all the screenplay's implausibilities and McElhone's performance probably deserved a richer movie. Still, Carmen, set in the 1980s, can be viewed as a pleasing tribute to a woman with fortitude enough to find a new life.

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