Initially a gentle portrait of a virginal young farm woman on the north shores of Canada who sings with the church choir and longs to be closer to God; she has toyed with the notion of entering a convent but instead falls in love with a monk, who tells the girl about the primitive practice of self-sacrifice by fire. Writer-director Paul Almond fashioned this tale for then-wife Genevieve Bujold, keeping her busy singing, interacting with the local villagers, working with the children and learning from (and flirting with) Father Donald Sutherland--a relationship which leads her down the wrong path into a religious fervor. Bujold, one of the finest actresses to come from the new wave of foreign personalities to reach Hollywood in the 1960s, responds to the lighter demands of this material with grace (fending off the affections of a lothario while ice-skating, walking forlornly in the snow and catching the snowdrift on her tongue, reading in bed with her glasses on and cutting up the newspaper), but the larger-scaled moments Almond stages for Bujold would be unplayable for any actress. The film is poorly-shot, recorded and edited, a bit monotonous and with a drab production; however, Bujold and Sutherland prove to be an offbeat romantic combination and there are some lovely moments here and there. Almond has higher aspirations, however, then simply observing this troubled woman's life, and the film's third act is a complete and willful self-destruction. ** from ****
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