Lilies of the Field (1963) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Homer Smith, an unemployed construction worker heading out west, stops at a remote farm in the desert to get water when his car overheats. The farm is being worked by a group of East European Catholic nuns, headed by the strict Mother Maria, who believes that Homer has been sent by God to build a much-needed church in the desert...

  • Initially deviated by the trouble of adjustments and some local opinions about Mother Maria, Smith finally makes-up his mind to build the Chapel. The movie features how a selfless devotion can inspire a person to find a motive in life and restores faith in the mankind.

  • When traveling African-American handyman Homer Smith stops by a farm in rural Arizona, he is welcomed by a group of Roman Catholic nuns who have emigrated from Germany. Realizing that the farm needs a lot of work, Homer takes on a number of repair projects for the women, who are led by the headstrong Mother Maria. Impressed by Homer's kindness and strong work ethic, the nuns come to believe that he has been sent by God to help build them a chapel.

  • A traveling handyman becomes the answer to the prayers of nuns who wish to build a chapel in the desert.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Lilies Of The Field is the story of a group of Catholic nuns who escape from the Communist held portion of Berlin and come to the United States.

    They have a small holding in a southwestern state where they are attempting to set up a school, hospital and chapel to serve the people of the area whose only place of worship is a mobile field chapel serviced by a priest who travels to the many small towns in the area providing masses, christenings and other services.

    Homer Smith, played by Poitier, is a black traveling handyman who lives on the road in his station wagon. Smith is a baptist. Smith is hired to do some small jobs for the sisters, and is eventually convinced to "Build a Schapel" for the nuns.

    During the course of the movie, Smith and the Mother Superior butt heads again and again over who is building the Chapel, who is providing the materials and drive. Smith is agitated with the stony hard-driving Mother Superior whose unbending nature eventually causes him to leave.

    The attitude of the Mother Superior is that "God" is building the chapel for them using Smith as the tool.

    Smith returns and begins to take a personal interest in the chapel and is determined to build it unaided. During the course of the movie his determination convinces the members of the community, believer and un-believer to contribute materials and labor to the task.

    The chapel is eventually completed, the Mother Superior unbends a little, the community unites and Smith hits the road with their respect and thanks, and a feeling of personal accomplishment.

    A movie with subtle depth, great characters and a "watch it again" appeal that is not found in many of the current (1980-to date) movies, and which the bulk of these have failed to deliver.

    One of the many high-lights of this film is the Gospel song: Amen sung by Portier and the nuns.

    Let's face it. You can watch the fated lovers on the Titanic only so many times.

    This movie is timeless in its appeal.

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