Leonardo Rossellini is a young Italian priest from Rome. He is assigned to a Parish in Payatas, One of the poorest areas in the Phillipines. It is here that he comes across a past lover in Merlinda. Now living in an abusive relationship, and with her son missing, Merlinda reaches out to Leonardo and the two begin a search that unravels a child abduction ring.
The most noticeable aspect of the production comes in it’s backdrop. Being in an impoverished community in the Phillipines, the film stays visually engaging as we feel transported, along with the protagonists into the area. This makes for some great location work and shots. This is not just a result of location as director Ruben Soriquez has a great eye for framing shots in an engaging fashion. There is also a lot to commend in giving some romance in the location through the people themselves, as many welcome him into the community and build a life around him. He, in turn, carries his faith into the community to help them with their trials and tribulations. The cinematography feels reflective of Leonardo’s own experiences in exploring his faith in this new land.
The introduction of our protagonist does not give an ideal first impression, since, being small in stature and calm manner, he seems too meek to result in an engaging narrative. However, through dialogue he does become an unlikely hero, making his calm demeanor a believable extension of his faith, resulting in a performance that feels sincere and authentic. The rest of the cast stands as their own fully realized characters, matching and complimenting the calmness of Leonardo. The only time the performances suffer are in the action sequences, of which there are few, which is reflective of Leonardo being a nonthreatening figure in build and manner. However, with the greater appeal being in the narrative, this is easily overlooked.
Although the film script feels like a tribute to the power of faith, it does manage to tackle some more difficult moral issues and intelligently navigates these problems while not completely bogging down the viewer with religious ideology. This is a bit deceptive as the first half of the film remains rather free of drama directly effecting the protagonist, it is not really until the second half with the introduction of Merlinda that it starts to garner interest. Within the first half, the initial impression would be that this is a film that only promotes faith, forgoing any other harder issues. But this is deceptive, as the film does transition into an engaging drama, giving strength to the script as a whole.
“Of Sinners and Saints” is a well constructed drama, backed with sincere performances, and an engaging script. After watching the film I could not draw any negative conclusion about its execution. However, the production is somewhat hindered by it’s overall message. Throughout the film, one consistent element is the power of faith, and although this is not a bad thing, it did create some disconnect and inability to fully empathize with Leonardo. Overall, it does portray religious beliefs in the best way possible through showcasing that, although having faith is not always an easy path, it can inspire many to live a meaningful life. The production showcases the more admirable aspects of religious belief, and can certainly be enjoyed by those with none, but will probably find the most appeal to those who can embrace the ideology. To those who have strong spiritual beliefs, this may act as the ideal film, as ultimately “Of Sinners and Saints” is an ideal portrayal of the power of spirituality.