The first entry in a pay-cable series of movies based on award-winning short stories about war, THE GARDEN OF REDEMPTION stars Anthony LaPaglia as a morally conflicted priest during the Nazi occupation of Italy. This international co-production is a simmering Harlequin romance guilt trip
that wouldn't make an altar boy blush.
During WWII, Don Paolo (Anthony LaPaglia), a priest in the town of Vaiano, Italy, advocates pacifism despite the anti-Nazi feelings of his parishioners. Although he is criticized by partisans led by Capt. Zito (Dan Hedaya) and headstrong Aldo (Jorge Sanz), patriotic Adriana (Embeth Davidtz) is
troubled by her more-than-friendly feelings for the handsome priest. Don Paolo is also attracted to Adriana, and struggles to keep his feelings under control.
When an American paratrooper (Brad Cherry) descends into the war-weary village prior to the American invasion, the partisan rebels accelerate their revolt. Aldo is captured, tortured, and executed; this tragedy brings Don Paolo and Adriana closer together. While Don Paolo struggles to remain
uninvolved, his pastor Don Sebastiano (David Neal) joins the local underground and Adriana sets up a trio of Nazis for ambush.
After Don Sebastiano is arrested and killed, Capt. Zito prevails upon Don Paolo to deliver a bridge demolition schedule to an American liaison in another city. Losing his nerve during a Nazi search of his train, Don Paolo misplaces the message. Adriana is then recruited for the job; she completes
it, but is arrested when she returns to Vaiano. To compensate for his past cowardice, Don Paolo helps Adriana escape, but she is recaptured. Just before the Americans liberate the town, a firing squad executes Don Paolo, who shields Adriana with his body. Although wounded, Adriana lives and honors
the memory of valorous Don Paolo.
Your average wartime yarn of lust postponed and social conscience activated, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with THE GARDEN OF REDEMPTION that a minesweep of the scriptwriter's cliches couldn't fix. What's most troubling is its equation of moral resolve with the suppression of romantic urges.
A quest for decency and a vow of self-denial don't occupy the same spot on a moral compass. In approximating Don Paolo's inner churning, LaPaglia, an aggressively physical actor, seems stupefied as he stares soulfully, like a refugee from the films of Robert Bresson. As his untouchable object of
desire, Davidtz (SCHINDLER'S LIST) is poignant and lovely, but in need of a break from being victimized by Fascists. The supporting cast, which features as many incongruous accents as Italy has dialects, is only window dressing for the central romance. One wishes that Don Paolo's wartime courage
had been precipitated by some drive other than star-crossed love. Of course, this lukewarm drama is less about spiritual bravery than it is about overcoming pesky base instincts. As always, true love conquers all; the Nazi firing squad keeps Don Paolo's romance pure for eternity. (Profanity,violence, adult situations, sexual situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1997
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: The first entry in a pay-cable series of movies based on award-winning short stories about war, THE GARDEN OF REDEMPTION stars Anthony LaPaglia as a morally conflicted priest during the Nazi occupation of Italy. This international co-production is a simmer… (more)