Don’t listen to the cynics who say this film is about nothing more than how to build a church in the desert.
Okay, yes, a church is built. A contractor is hired, materials arrive and a building is completed. But this movie is more than that. It’s about determination and grit, and some pretty stubborn nuns.
Sidney Poitier (in an Oscar-winning performance) is Homer Smith, a wandering army vet who meets a group of German-speaking nuns eking out a living in the Arizona desert. Well! You know how nuns are. Before he knows it, Smith has been coerced into building them a church.
This is a movie with terrific chemistry. Not the romantic kind, but the kind between two strong, opposing characters who each try to bend the other to their will. Mother Maria (Lilia Skala) tries to convince Smith that he is obligated to fulfill God’s plan for a church; Smith argues that if he builds a church the choice is his alone. Never has the Free-Will-vs.-Predestination debate been so much fun!
Ralph Nelson directed this fabulous film, and he also appears as Mr. Ashton, a man who owns a local construction company and is never seen without his hat. Before long the hapless Mr. Ashton realizes that he, too, is centered in Mother Maria’s crosshairs.
(If you permit us a digression, our little Hungarian grandmother, whose GDP in one year was greater than that of a G20 nation, stopped her work for only three things: a good cup of coffee; Lilies of the Field; and any random medical emergency…in that order.)
Why not grab a cup of java and treat yourself to this film? We guarantee you’ll find yourself humming* along with the theme song.
*This link contains a spoiler alert!
Starring Sidney Poitier, Lilia Skala and Stanley Adams. Written by James Poe. Directed by Ralph Nelson. United Artists, 1963, 97 mins.