Need to get your priorities straight? Go see this movie

| August 17, 2011 | 3 Comments

Paul Borghese plays the title character in "Vito Bonafacci." Photo courtesy of CAVU Pictures

It’s hard not to be reminded of your own mortality while paging through the morning newspaper or watching the evening news. Stories about young soldiers dying in Afghanistan, car accident victims and the ever-present obituary pages are reminders of the fragility of the gift of life we have been given.

Death is a reality that few of us like to confront or think about until we’re forced to. The idea that, truly, we could die at any time can be a frightening prospect — even though as Christians we know that death is very much a part of our earthly pilgrimage and that we live in the hope of Christ’s resurrection.

The church tells us that our time on earth is a time to prepare — a time to get ourselves right with God and our neighbor before we come face to face with our Creator in heaven.

But, absent a terminal illness diagnosis, how many of us really think about this, much less consciously prepare for it, as we lead our busy lives at work, at home and in our communities? And, how would we even begin preparing ourselves?

‘Cinematic retreat’

These are some of the issues and questions faced by Vito Bonafacci, the lead character in a new movie of the same name.

Vito lives a successful and comfortable life — more comfortable than most. He lives in a big house and has a devoted wife. He has a cook, a gardener and a guy who washes his car.

Vito appears to be living the American dream. But what’s apparent from the opening scene of the film is that his mind is also restless because of a dream in which his dead mother warns him that eternal happiness cannot be found in the things of this world. Vito has never had much time for faith or religion, and his mother warns him that he needs to re-examine his path in life or face unpleasant consequences. He subsequently has conversations with others in the film about life, death and faith.

It’s heavy stuff to contemplate, but “Vito Bonafacci” unfolds at a slow pace that almost compels viewers to contemplate their own lives in relation to Vito’s. One reviewer accurately described the movie as a “cinematic retreat.”

An actor’s perspective

Paul Borghese, the actor who plays Vito, told me in a recent interview that he empathizes with Vito in many ways.

“I don’t think Vito is greedy or pretentious or conceited,” Borghese said. “I think he’s just caught up in wanting to be successful, wanting to be a hard worker, wanting to do all the things that you’re brought up being told you should do. Unfortunately, because he was successful, he got caught up in some of the materialistic ways of life. That’s why his mother came to him in the dream and complained that he let that get the best of him.”

Borghese said playing the part of Vito deepened his Catholic faith. He goes to church more, prays more. He goes so far as to tell others: “If you go see this movie, you stand a better chance of going to heaven.”

That a bit of a stretch, but the Bronx native also said: “Almost anybody who watches this movie is going to be affected in some kind of positive way — in the way they live their life, should live their life.”

On that point, he’s correct. “Vito Bonafacci” has a lot to say about faith, prayer and the importance of receiving the sacraments, particularly reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.

While it focuses on “getting right with God,” it would have been an even better movie if it also had said something more explicit about the importance of parish life and “getting right with our neighbor.”

But, imperfections aside, this is a good movie for families with older children, pastors and catechists. It will provide fodder for group discussions about the meaning of life as well as death.

If you go see the movie, you’ll be reminded of your own mortality. But you’ll also walk away with some food for thought about how to live your life better here on earth and how to better prepare yourself for eternal life in heaven.

And that, certainly, is worth the price of admission.


Coming to Maple Grove

The Catholic Spirit is sponsoring a special local-run of “Vito Bonafacci.”

• When: Aug. 26-Sept. 1

• Where: AMC Arbor Lakes 16, 12575 Elm Creek Blvd., Maple Grove.

• Showtimes: Call 1-888-AMC-4FUN. Or visit http://www.amctheatres. com/ArborLakes.

Category: Editorials, Spotlight

  • Colin LaVergne

    Joe, I am guessing that because you are the editor, you had to come up with a good review of this movie.  Based on its promotion by the Catholic Spirit, my wife and I went to it last week.  This was the slowest paced movie I’ve ever seen.  The acting was flat.  The build up to the climax was awkward.  To excuse the slow pace as a ‘cinematic retreat’ is quite a stretch.  Both of us wanted to like the movie because we agreed with the message (with the limitations you described), but we just couldn’t.  Some of the photography was pretty but we didn’t need to stare at a fish tank for 5 minutes (my exaggeration) for some purpose that was unclear to us.   When the final credits rolled, I understood why the movie was so flawed.  The writer, director and producer were all the same person.  There are only a few people in the movie business who are so gifted that they can do all 3 roles and produce a well done film.  Most big name directors who try to do all 3 produce a flop.  It is hard enough to do just two of the roles, let alone all 3.  Almost all movie makers need the interaction of all 3 roles to refine and perfect a movie so that it does not just become some sort of personal diary entry put on the big screen.
    Of course, the reverence for the Eucharist was uplifting and many Catholics might find that ending justifies the whole movie.   It didn’t for us.

  • Joe Towalski

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I fully realize not all people will like the movie or agree with my take on it. For some, the positive message and time to reflect will outweigh the the shortcomings. For others, like yourself, it won’t.

  • I didn’t see the film, but I’m not surprised that some folks will have this reaction. So much of a Faith journey is internal…how do you film that?

    It’s a rare thing when a film can be cerebral, spiritual AND enjoyable. 

    One of my all-time faves that pulled it off was “A Man For All Seasons”.