Catholic News Service
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” This famous line from the “Confessions” of St. Augustine (354-430) inspires both the title and the theme of “Restless Heart” — a biographical profile of the holy bishop that manages to inspire while steering clear of sentimentality.
The movie draws on aspects of Augustine’s life from youth to old age. Though this necessitates that the leading role be shared by two actors, Alessandro Preziosi as the younger Augustine and Franco Nero as the older man, the casting is well done, so that the difference between the two is not at all jarring to the audience.
The narrative opens in the last year of the life of this great father of the church, as he faces the Vandals’ invasion of his diocese of Hippo Regius in Roman Africa, then goes back in time to guide the viewer through Augustine’s moving conversion story.
Born in Thagaste, North Africa, to a pagan father and a Christian mother, the young Augustine moved to the ancient metropolis of Carthage to study rhetoric. There he rose to be a well-established lawyer, but one who believed that truth was unconnected to reality and belonged instead to the winning side in any given dispute.
Monica Guerritore portrays the mother of St. Augustine, played as a young man by Alessandro Preziosi, in a scene from the movie “Restless Heart.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The film is not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (CNS photo/’Maximus Group)
Around this time Augustine adopted the dualist Manichaean heresy, a development of Gnosticism that posited an ongoing cosmic battle between equally matched worlds of light and darkness. By his own later account, Augustine also gave way to debauched living.
The 127-minute long move is arduous at times, though it mostly remains focused on the task at hand.
As it covers Augustine’s search for the meaning of truth and his eventual embrace of a heresy-free Christianity, the picture gives plenty of breathing room to the philosophical arguments with which he wrestled. It also highlights the influence exerted on him by his holy mother St. Monica (Monica Guerritore) and by his philosophical adversary, but future friend, St. Ambrose (Andrea Giordana), the bishop of Milan.
Less satisfactory however, is the treatment of Augustine’s career as a priest and bishop, which is touched on only at the beginning and end of the movie.
This is, nonetheless, a well-produced, colorful piece of cinema that communicates uplifting messages about the power of God and the importance of truth. As such, viewers of faith will likely find it extremely nourishing.
The film contains some violence and a cohabitation theme. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.