March 1, 2024

Inspiring biopic Cabrini has few flaws in depicting life of saint

Cristiana Dell’Anna and her young co-star Frederico Ielapi give impactful performances in Cabrini. (Photo courtesy of Angel Studios)

Cristiana Dell’Anna and her young co-star Frederico Ielapi give impactful performances in Cabrini. (Photo courtesy of Angel Studios)

By Ann Margaret Lewis

Releasing on March 8 in honor of International Women’s Day, the film Cabrini is a biopic of St. Frances Cabrini, the first American saint and the patroness of immigrants and the poor.

Directed by Alejandro Monteverde, award-winning director of Sound of Freedom, the film tells the story of Mother Cabrini’s 1889 arrival in the United States and the first steps on her lifelong journey to found 67 hospitals, orphanages and schools in her new home country. She became a naturalized United States citizen in 1909 and was canonized in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.

Cabrini is distributed through Angel Studios, the same production company that gave us Sound of Freedom and The Chosen series.

Like those productions, this film has lush, lived-in settings and intense acting. Cristiana Dell’Anna (The Hand of God) delivers an impassioned performance as the titular character. She is joined in the cast by Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner John Lithgow (The World According to Garp, “3rd Rock from the Sun”) as her primary antagonist Mayor Gould, and Emmy nominee David Morse (“St. Elsewhere,” The Green Mile) as the conflicted Archbishop Corrigan. All the acting performances in the film are powerful, convincing and moving, including the boy Paolo, played by the young Frederico Ielapi (Pinocchio).

There are few flaws in this film. It is well-written, artistically directed and tells the inspiring story of Mother Cabrini’s dealing with the anti-Italian sentiment of the period—and the Church hierarchy’s and civil authorities’ lack of support for her mission to serve the immigrant poor.

The only complaint I had with the script was that it failed to communicate Mother Cabrini’s core motivation for all that she did, which was a fierce devotion to Christ and his sacred heart. Perhaps filmmakers thought her motivation would be obvious since she was a religious sister, a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But adding that one puzzle piece would have made her compelling story more complete.

Mother Cabrini was a busy woman, conquering all that she did with great energy despite her poor health. Yet all of her accomplishments were fueled through a deep, abiding prayer life that gave her strength beyond expectations. That is what truly made her a saint. We rarely see that in the movie, and never once see her at Mass. Such scenes might have slowed the pace of the film, but even a short glimpse or a single line of dialogue would have given us this added touch.

Regardless, this is a well-made film, and I eagerly recommend it as inspirational viewing for the Lenten and Easter seasons.

Cabrini opens nationwide on March 8. As with Sound of Freedom, Angel Studios is also offering the “pay it forward” option online, in which viewers can donate tickets for those who might not otherwise see the film.

For more information or to find a showing at a theater near you, go to †

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