In 1930, in Belgium, Gabrielle van der Mal is the stubborn daughter of the prominent surgeon Dr. Hubert van der Mal that decides to leave her the upper-class family to enter to a convent, expecting to work as nun in Congo with tropical diseases. She says good-bye to her sisters Louise and Marie; to her brother Pierre; and to her beloved father, and subjects herself to the stringent rules of the retrograde institution, including interior silent and excessive humbleness and humiliation. After a long period working in a mental institution, Gaby is finally assigned to go to Congo, where she works with the Atheist and cynical, but brilliant, Dr. Fortunati. Sister Luke proves to be very efficient nurse and assistant, and Dr. Fortunati miraculous heals her tuberculosis. Years later, she is ordered to return to Belgium and when her motherland is invaded by the Germans, she learns that her beloved father was murdered by the enemy while he was helping wounded members of the resistance.
You can cheat your sisters, but you cannot cheat yourself or God.
Eight Oscar nominations, five Golden Globe nominations, and five BAFTA nominations, with a win for Audrey Hepburn for Best British Actress indicates that this was one of the best films of 1959. Unfortunately, it had to go up against Ben Hur for most awards. That doesn’t take a bit from it’s excellence and entertainment value.
This is an utterly fascinating story of a young nun (Audrey Hepburn), and a non-believing doctor (Peter Finch). Sister Luke (Hepburn) is constantly challenged in sticking to her vows, especially the one of obedience.
She chaffed at the rules that did not leave room for common sense. Is it better to strictly obey or to do more good in disobedience? It is a question asked over and over.
Things become more difficult as WWII starts. Now, the rules must be set aside to help the war effort. Eventually, the conflict between the rules and her need for independence is resolved.
Hepburn was fantastic, as was Finch. Well worth seeing.