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Thérèse (1986)

The life of little St. Therese of Lisieux, depicted in minimalist vignettes. Therese and her sisters are all nuns in a Carmelite convent. Her devotion to Jesus and her concept of "the ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Hélène Alexandridis ...
Aurore Prieto ...
Clémence Massart-Weit ...
Prioress (as Clémence Massart)
Sylvie Habault ...
Nathalie Bernart ...
Mona Heftre ...
Marie - une religiause (as Ghislaine Mona)
Beatrice De Vigan ...
Jean Pélégri ...
The father
Pierre Baillot
Pierre Maintigneux ...
Convent Doctor
Jean Pieuchot ...
The Bishop
Guy Faucon ...
Aimee's Fiancé
Armand Meppiel ...
The Pope
Joël Lefrançois ...
The Young Doctor


The life of little St. Therese of Lisieux, depicted in minimalist vignettes. Therese and her sisters are all nuns in a Carmelite convent. Her devotion to Jesus and her concept of "the little way" to God are shown clearly, using plain modern language. A sense of angelic simplicity comes across without fancy lights, choirs, or showy miracles. Written by Molly Malloy

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Plot Keywords:

carmelite | nun | convent | priest | pope | See All (12) »




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Release Date:

17 December 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Thérèse  »

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Did You Know?


French visa # 60947 delivered on 17-7-1986. See more »


Version of La vie miraculeuse de Thérèse Martin (1930) See more »

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User Reviews

Stark, raw, but incomplete
1 March 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

As an avid reader of St. Therese's writings myself, I thought I'd explore the available film portrayals about her life. This movie is quite literally a "screen play," quite obviously filmed on a soundstage with most of the scenes framed in front of gray backdrops. The colorless backgrounds cause one to focus more on the expressions and mannerisms of the characters, and also allow one to experience the richness of the sound (though many sound effects, such as that of a cat eating raw fish, are not exactly pleasing). In addition, the narrative basically stays true to the main events of Therese's life. Life in the convent was tough and exacting, and the stark manner in which it is portrayed gets that point across very effectively.

In spite of these strengths, the movie has its weaknesses and it does not (in my opinion) give a complete picture of Therese. One aspect of Therese that it does not do a good job of showing is her great intelligence, which really shines through when one reads her writings. Therese in this movie often seems to be a female counterpart of Gomer Pyle, a sort of dimwitted young Sister who smiles at the sufferings Jesus throws her way in much the same way that Gomer might smile after receiving a butt-chewing from Sgt. Carter. Her keen mental prowess is seen mainly in the first few scenes of the movie as she plots to save the souls of sinners and to gain entrance to the convent--once entering the convent, one gets the sense that Therese is nothing if not witless.

While portraying the mortification of the flesh that Therese practiced as a Carmelite (e.g. by wearing a cross close to her chest that had nails in the back of it), the movie does not show other important aspects of Therese's convent life that are less jarring but more important to understanding her philosophy. For example, one hardly sees Therese's "little way," the constant small sacrifices that she made for her Carmelite sisters on a daily basis that went largely unnoticed during her lifetime. The movie tends to dwell too much on those aspects of Carmelite tradition (and of Therese's life) that are more jarring to modern sensibilities and less on aspects of her life that might be perceived as more admirable. For example, one doesn't see that Therese was a prolific writer for her entire adult life (which she was, churning out enough letters, poems, prayers, and plays over nine years to fill several books--not to mention her autobiography). Therese was also a strong and exacting leader, put in charge of the novices for a few years toward the end of her life; in the movie she is portrayed as more of a servile follower.

The movie, while not overtly taking sides as to the veracity of Therese's faith, does seem to view the 19th century nunnery through a late 20th-century lens by portraying things that would not have been discussed if they ever had happened. For example, one nun seems to have (barely) repressed lesbian tendencies While another appears to be a man who has managed to pass as a sister. While titillating the imaginations of moviegoers by throwing in a bit of scandal, these anecdotes do little to help us understand who Therese really was.

Perhaps a 90-120 minute movie can never give total balance to any person, but the Therese that is portrayed in this movie is not the same sharp, tough-yet-sentimental figure whom I met in her writing. As a piece of cinematography, though, it does have its own strengths and should not be passed up solely because of the weaknesses I have outlined.

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