Stigmata (1999)
Main cast: Patricia Arquette (Frankie Paige), Gabriel Byrne (Father Andrew Kiernan), and Jonathan Pryce (The Cardinal)
Director: Rupert Wainwright

There's an embryo of a great story of faith in Stigmata, but I have to muddle through convoluted plot twists to get to it. After a while, I decide not to bother and just drool at Gabriel Byrne's gorgeous face instead.

Father Kiernan is the Fox Mulder of the Roman Catholic Church, working as an investigator of miracles for the Pope. He investigates the case of a statue of the Virgin Mary crying human blood in a church in South America, only to find the case inexplicably closed upon the submission of his report. Meanwhile, the rosary beads/crucifix of the late priest of the church finds its way to Frankie Paige. Soon, the hairdresser finds her wild-sex and fun-fun-fun life severely curtailed when she starts bleeding from mysterious wounds and undergoing hallucinations and such. She gets possessed by spirits good and bad, which scares off her potential one-night stands a little. Okay, a lot. In a stigmatic attack in a subway train ride, she is witnessed by a priest who calls Father Kiernan to step in. Soon, what is a horror movie suddenly takes a complete U-turn to turn into a church-politic movie instead. The plot is one fifty-under-ten-years-old-kids-birthday-bash-and-foodfight big mess.

But I adore Kiernan who is a chemist as well as a priest. He is attracted to Frankie despite his best intentions. Likewise, Frankie is a woman who doesn't understand what is happening to her but refuses to go down without a fight. There is a great romance in here, one where it is doomed because they never can be together. This is not a sleazy affair, mind you. There is a wonderful quiet scene where these two sit down and talk in a cafe, and they end up laughing and sharing personal thoughts and reflections. More heartbreaking is the brief, almost timid kiss they shared at the end before they part ways. Kiernan is a man who is sometimes torn between science and faith, and his character can be so complex, so memorable in his vulnerability, illicit attraction, and nobility. Trapped in a lousy story like this is a waste of a character of his potential. Frankie and Andrew deserve a better story.

Hence while the movie gives me a headache, it's not a dead loss. It introduced me to Andrew Kiernan, after all, one of the most fascinating heroes in a movie I've watched for a long, long time. Paradoxical? You bet.

Rating: 62

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