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?
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.