What do you get when you put brilliant actors, authentic Tunisian sets, and a hero of the Christian faith in the hands of a consistently under-performing director? A mediocre movie like Restless Heart.
Produced as part of Lux Vide's IMPERIUM collection, Restless Heart is one of six separate miniseries about imperial Rome shot on location in Tunisia. American viewers have been privy to several of these modestly successful miniseries-turned-movies since 2000 (i.e., St. Peter starring Omar Sharif in 2005).
Restless Heart, like others in the series, includes very talented performers. Augustine's mother is played by well-established Italian actress Monica Guerritore, and she affectingly conveys the anxiety a mother must feel watching her son go the way of scoffers. Bishop Ambrose (Andrea Giordana) shows us a man who fights for the truth with fire and skill, but out of humility rather than pride. And then there is Augustine himself (played by Alessandro Preziosi and Franco Nero). Quotes from his fifth-century autobiography, Confessions, present his hopes, fears, and search for God in some of the most elegant language ever penned.
We see Augustine as a child admiring the rhetorical skill of Roman publicans, and we follow his quest for power and prestige as a lawyer. We see his excesses with drink and women, but nowhere is the presentation offensive.
But once the protagonist's restless heart finds rest, director Christian Duguay seems at a loss. He discards the powerful theme of grace, and Augustine's post-conversion life feels disconnected, like religious propaganda. The postscript that his writings helped bring a new world order - Christendom - seems farcical compared to the movie's earlier heartfelt redemption. Tragic, considering the real Augustine's emphasis on grace following conversion, and his valiant defense of rest in God against Pelagius and other heretics who bid men climb the broken ladder of good works to glory.