Letters to Father Jacob

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Letters to Father Jacob

Redemption works in conveniently mysterious ways throughout writer-director Klaus Hr's small-scale character drama, which charts the relationship between blind Father Jacob (Nousiainen) and paroled convict Leila (Hazard). A former lifer granted early release, Leila arrives at the rustic rectory and is immediately skeptical about her new secretary job, helping the priest respond to countless letters he receives from desperate souls asking for prayers on their behalf. Unsure of herself and the reasons behind this second chance at life, Leila attempts to figure out what lies behind Jacob's welcoming if somber countenance---as well as his seemingly noble intentions and similar self-doubt.

Hr's spiritually inclined film could certainly do without the self-consciously picturesque cinematography, as every other scene is distractingly drenched in natural greens and shadowy blacks. Thankfully, his leads give heartfelt performances, both expressing their characters' deep uncertainty about the value of their actions and a profound yearning for purpose. Yet between faux-suspenseful suggestions of Leila's wickedness and Jacob's predilection for turning his sightless eyes skyward, their story comes off as egregiously phony. There's only one thing worse than a leaden moral fable that tackles issues of forgiveness with sledgehammer contrivances, and that's one that attempts to mask its manipulative corniness with an air of trumped-up gravity.

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By: Nick Schager

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