If you’re the head of a California monastery and one of your priests suddenly turns into not just a woman, but an inexplicably pregnant woman, you’re bound to do a little soul-searching.
That’s what “Blessed Art Thou” — also released as “A Question of Faith” — is about, and while the film has its humorous moments (how could it not, given the premise?), it’s a great deal more contemplative than the flippant summary just given might suggest.
Brother Anselm (M.E. Hackett) is the priest in question. Following a visitation from the angel Gabriel — which his superiors already doubt — Anselm miraculously turns into a full-blown woman, fetus included.
Different members of the monastery have different reactions. The younger priests — all of whom had life-changing experiences that caused them to seek out God — are more open-minded; in particular there’s Brother William (Naveen Andrews), who wants to be the baby’s adoptive father.
At the other extreme is Father Adrian (Daniel Von Bargen), a man so firm in his convictions that when something happens contrary to the status quo, he can’t accept it. There’s hatred in him, and the fact that hatred can dwell so close to the surface without coming out is one of the film’s themes.
The monastery’s doctor, Duncan (Joe Spano), tries to find scientific explanations for the whole thing; Abbott Frederick (Bernard Hill) says it can’t be accepted by the church “because it doesn’t fit in with any … precedent.” (That’s what they said when Mary got pregnant, too, Abselm responds — although Mary’s miracle didn’t involve a transgender mutation.)
“Blessed Art Thou” is satisfying, but not life-altering. The absurdity of the situation makes getting into our hearts an uphill battle from the get-go, and director/writer Tim Disney never really overcomes that obstacle. In the end, it has the feel of a fable: One is amused by it, and perhaps driven to some thought, but there’s little emotional connection to the story or characters.
B (; )