THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS began as three novels by Nino Ricci and became a television miniseries for Canadian TV with a screenplay by Malcolm MacRury under the direction of Jerry Ciccoritti. It is a sweeping epic that covers Italy, Canada, Alaska and other parts of the US over a number of years in a non-linear fashion that weakens the plot progress. But despite the sudsy aspects of the three-hour plus DVD, there are moments of tenderness and memorable acting that deserve attention.
The story opens in Italy where Vittorio Innocente as a child (Flavio Pacilli and as a teen by Joseph Marrese) observes his mother Cristina (Sabrina Ferilli) in the stables, bitten by a snake but obviously having just had a consignation with a soldier with blue eyes. Vittorio seeks solace from his maiden teacher aunt Therese (a luminous Sophia Loren) who consoles him, protects Christina when she becomes visibly pregnant (her husband Mario - Nick Mancuso - has been absent...), and helps him understand life through the lives of the saints by means of stories in a book she gives him. Vittorio and his mother depart for Canada 'to join Mario', but on the ship Christina dies giving birth to her daughter Rita, an infant protected by the ship's nurse (Valeria Benedetti Michelangeli). Vittorio is eventually separated from Rita and as an immigrant in America he separates himself from his Italian background, becoming a teacher in the Artic (Vittorio is now played with gusto by the talented and hunky Fabrizio Filippo, well known to American audiences from his work on Queer as Folk). Rita (Jessica Paré) is adopted and lives in Canada where she studies art and is stalked by Mario. Vittorio responds to Theresa's calls to protect Rita, the two fall in love, and the complications of the lives of this disseminated immigrant family intertwine in a manner of old-fashioned movies.
The saving grace of this rather saccharine and too long epic is the pleasure of watching Sophia Loren who still commands the screen. It also gives notice of new faces to watch - the gorgeous Sabrina Ferilli and the handsome Fabrizio Filippo. These three are reason enough to watch the movie. It is a long song of familial love/hate relationships, adoration of the simpler past as exemplified by Aunt Therese, and the plight of Italian (and all) immigrants. The photography of the varying locales is lovely and the music matches the changing times and the story. LIVES OF THE SAINTS is another example of how audiences from different countries gain access to 'foreign' TV miniseries. Grady Harp, February 07