These three films reveal that the shed light on challenges of living a spiritual life in a secular world
Holy, holy, holy! Those aren’t usually the words that come to mind while browsing the offerings on Netflix and Amazon Prime, are they? This month may be a little different, though. This month, the two streaming services have added three films produced in 2017 that feature the word “holy” in their titles, each of them involving, to some degree or other, Catholics dealing with their religion. Of course, anytime that’s the subject matter, the results are going to hold the potential to be both uplifting and/or insulting.
Holy Goalie (Netflix)
Of the three films, Holy Goalie is the least likely to offend. The story involves Father Salva, a good-hearted but troublesome priest who is sentenced to penance at the strictest monastery in Spain after he irritates the Vatican one time too many. Upon learning that the local bishop intends to sell the monastery to a hotel chain, Salva concocts a scheme to save his new home. Knowing the bishop bears a grudge against the coach of the Vatican’s soccer team (surprisingly a real thing), Salva convinces the bishop to spare the monastery if the monks can defeat Team Vatican at the next championship match. The bishop agrees, leaving Salva with just one small problem; the monks don’t know how to play.
Holy Goalie is lightweight fare. It’s a typical “slobs vs. snobs” comedy, though this time around the slobs are made up of a motley assortment of monks while the snobs consist of various members of the Church hierarchy (not the pope, it doesn’t go there). There are a few semi-serious scenes involving the conflict between the monastery’s rigid abbot, who represents the letter of the law, and Salva, who represents its spirit. There’s also way too much time devoted to a subplot involving one of the younger members of the monastery who has doubts about his calling thanks to a woman. It seems that tired old movie trope is never going away. Overall, though, Holy Goalie is played for laughs, and it does succeed in eliciting a lite chuckle or two if the viewer is in the right mood.
Holy Camp! (Netflix)
Where to start with Holy Camp!? It begins like a cross between The Trouble with Angels and Meatballs, with two rebellious teenage girls causing headaches for the nuns who run the local Catholic summer camp. The movie quickly veers into the weird, however, when God appears to one of the girls as a besequinned lounge singer who communicates only through Whitney Houston songs. The appearance of this oddball apparition sets off a series of events that ultimately forces both the girls and the nuns to question just exactly what it means to seek God’s will in one’s life.
Holy Camp! is the very definition of a mixed bag. Despite its obvious low budget, the film is a quality production with fine acting from all four of its likable leads and a nice visual flare, especially during its exuberant musical numbers. It’s also commendable that it takes religion seriously and the nuns aren’t treated as villains, at least not after the first 10 minutes or so. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around the script’s insipid conclusion that what God truly wants is whatever we want, no matter what that might be, as long as it makes us happy. Oh, and the repressed lesbian nun thing? That plot twist got played out decades ago.
Holy Air (Amazon Prime)
Though Holy Air purports to be a comedy like the preceding two films, what little humor it has is definitely of the dark variety. The narrative follows Adam, a disaffected Christian Arab who lives in Nazareth with his newly pregnant hyper-feminist wife and his dying father. After witnessing a local priest hawk souvenirs to religious pilgrims, Adam decides to get in on the racket by selling bottles of “holy air” gathered from the spot where the Virgin Mary received the annunciation. Things go well with the venture until the local Catholic bishop, Jewish politicians, and Muslim mafia all show up wanting their cut of the profits.
Although all the action in Holy Air centers around religion, none of the characters are particularly religious. The film paints a rather bleak picture of life in the Holy Land where limited opportunities force everybody, even the clergy, to do whatever is necessary to scrape by. The nadir of the film’s downbeat worldview comes when Adam and his reluctant wife visit the local termination committee (again, a real thing) seeking permission for an abortion because they no longer feel they have the means to care for a child. Fortunately, they don’t go through with the procedure, but the episode goes to show that Holy Air is hardly a laugh-a-minute type of movie. Despite its cynicism, however, the film ends on somewhat of a positive note, if you want to call what happens an ending.
Now, chances are most, if not all, of these movies are unfamiliar. That’s probably because they are all foreign productions which, yes, means that there are subtitles. But it also means there is an opportunity for English-speaking audiences to see how certain segments of other cultures view Catholicism. Holy Goalie and Holy Camp! provide us with a Spain that is increasingly secular yet can’t seem to completely sever its Catholic roots, no matter how much it may want to. Holy Air shows us an Israel where worldly concerns often trump spiritual ones. In short, the rest of the world is pretty much just like us. It would seem we all have a lot of work to do when it comes to our spiritual lives, no matter where we live.