What does it take to bring healing and forgiveness into lives jaded from deep hurts and old habits? How can words revealed in their right time allow grace to pour into thirsty souls? And how can two very different people be catalysts for growth and freedom in each other's lives? Such are the major questions inspired by Klaus Härö's Letters to Father Jacob, a simple and sincere tale of unexpected redemption. The Finnish film (with English subtitles) opened in limited release last week, and comes to DVD in February 2011.
Leila (Kaarina Hazard), a convicted murderer, receives an early pardon from her life sentence. Taking the only opportunity available, she goes to work for Father Jacob (Heikki Nousiainen), a blind elderly priest who lives alone in a large rectory and tends an abandoned rural church. Instead of housework, he wants her to read letters to him. Jacob lives for his correspondence, passionately embracing his role as an intercessor for all who write with requests. Leila is hard-nosed about matters of faith and tempted by the shady opportunities of serving a frail, sightless man who doesn't much care for his tin of life savings.
It's a familiar template—a cold and surly individual is warmed by the presence of simple and innocent folk—but Härö avoids sentimentality. Father Jacob isn't a perfect little sunbeam overflowing with proverbs and good cheer; he's a tired and faithful man clinging to hope in the face of his own apparent irrelevance, his church having dried up long ago. As Jacob, Nousiainen is constantly in a dance between joy and sorrow, and he walks that tightrope without ever falling completely to one side, or into some sort of generic bittersweet caricature. Instead, what emerges ...1