Courtesy of the Daily Beast
By Anthony Dryden
This is an independently submitted op-ed for our Quill section. Views and statements made in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Tower.
I’ll be honest in saying the last time I thought of Shia LaBeouf was in regard to Transformers. So, when he popped up of him playing the famed Saint Padre Pio it was a bit of a surprise. This movie comes right off the heel of Father Stu starring Mark Wahlberg, an exciting trend. Then LaBeouf announced his conversion to top it all off. My first thought was good for him, but doing more reading really made it even more powerful.
It’s common, especially for celebrities, to announce something and not follow through with it. For example, Sinead O’Connor used to be a big Catholic, and then she ripped up a photo of Pope Saint John Paul II on SNL. And it seems LaBeouf “Has previously said he found God in 2014.” Yet the actor also stated, “He said he had been attracted to the talks of atheist Sam Harris prior to his Catholic conversion.” This may seem as if LaBeouf is prone to flip-flopping, a sign that does not bode well for his Catholic conversion. The Latin Mass also played a crucial role in his journey as well. He was introduced by “Actor and director Mel Gibson.” Which is a tad concerning because of his Sedeprivationism. LaBeouf was obviously dealing with some issues in 2014 and was susceptible to suggestions.
There is reason to believe this might be genuine. Apparently, LaBeouf spent a considerable amount of time at the San Lorenzo seminary, reading the Gospel of Matthew, and was particularly “Struck by the figure of John the Baptist.” He also prayed the Rosary regularly and was moved to reconnect with his estranged mother.
LaBeouf reportedly “Felt immense pressure as he learned more about Pio.” He also recalls how several Franciscan Capuchin friars spoke with him deeply about him portraying the saint correctly in the film saying, “Don’t get it wrong. He’s the only one we have.” This shows how committed LaBeouf is in his role, which I believe translates to his commitment to his conversion. The actor stated that “He did not feel worthy of pursuing piety of any kind until he met others who had struggled morally in ways he’d never seen before and felt safe.” This is one of the glories of the Catholic Church. Our sufferings are not only purifying to ourselves, but to others as well. We all can see how some of the greatest among us have come from the deepest pits of sin.
In terms of the movie, most reviews claim that the movie is clumsy and clunky. The Guardian claims it to have “An underdeveloped, improvised feel, like a fragment or shard of something else.” The film tries to balance spiritual conflict with the political conflict of southern Italy post-Great War. It is a fair complaint, given the majority of the trailer is engulfed by the political drama rather than the saint himself.
The film also has the challenge of portraying a saint. Father Stu took the more gritty route with swearing, and it seems director Abel Ferrara has taken this route as well. The Saint is shown yelling “Shut the f**k up” and “Say Christ is Lord” to a father who confesses sexual attraction to his daughter. Some may say that this is a poor way to represent a saint. However, in this context, I am undoubtedly assured that every single one of us would be as disgusted at this revelation as Pio was.
All in all, I was a little worried when Shia was cast to play St. Padre Pio, however, the actor has taken to the role fiercely and sincerely. The fact that this role has aided him during his struggles I believe is a testament to the grace of God. Even with intermediate yelling from Shia during the film, they handled the legacy of the Saint as a passionate follower of Christ.