Take 3: The Nun’s Story Review (A Month Without the Code — #4)

When I was choosing films to review for the A Month Without the Code blogathon, one of the movies that I wanted to see was The Nun’s Story. This is a film that I had never heard of until I read Debbie’s (from the blog, Moon in Gemini) review. After reading that article, I found the story of The Nun’s Story to be fascinating. I was especially curious to see how the concept of someone joining a Religious Order would be included. In movies that feature characters who are members of a Religious Order, the process of becoming a member is not often shown. Since The Nun’s Story was going to air on Audrey Hepburn’s day during the Summer Under the Stars marathon on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), this inspired me to make the decision to talk about Non-Code films for both the A Month Without the Code and Summer Under the Stars blogathon! Before watching The Nun’s Story, I saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was the only film of Audrey’s that I had seen. Choosing this film for these blogathons has given me the opportunity to watch more of Audrey’s movies!

The Nun's Story poster
The Nun’s Story poster created by Warner Bros. Image found at https://www.warnerbros.com/news/articles/2019/07/12/60-years-nuns-story.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, the only other film of Audrey’s that I’ve seen is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her role in The Nun’s Story is very different from her aforementioned film. For one thing, there were times when her character, Gaby, was supposed to be silent due to the rules of the congregation. Audrey used this part of the script to her advantage by relying on her facial expressions as much as possible. An example of this is when Gaby is told that she will have to purposefully fail her exam in order for another Sister to pass. Audrey’s reaction allowed her character to say so much while using so few words. While watching this film, there was one performance that I felt needed to be addressed. During the story, Gaby is assigned to work in a psychiatric hospital, where she encounters a patient known as “Archangel Gabriel”. This character was portrayed by Colleen Dewhurst. Despite the fact that her screen-time was limited and that she was given very few lines, Colleen relied on facial expressions and emotions to bring her character to life. A perfect example is the scene where “Archangel Gabriel” asks Gaby for a glass of water.

The process of becoming a Nun: When it comes to movies featuring members of the Religious Order, the process of becoming a member is rarely featured. In The Nun’s Story, this process is thoroughly explored, allowing for this part of the story to be interesting and informative. It wasn’t just limited to a certain section of the film. The process is even observed after Gaby becomes a Nun. When she finally gets to do service work in the Congo, she still finds herself facing challenges and obstacles. This shows that being human is an on-going process, complete with personal growth and reflection. It also makes the character of Gaby relatable.

The messages and themes: Throughout this film, there were lots of messages and themes that I found relatable, even if Gaby’s specific experience isn’t relatable. An overarching example is the twists and turns that happen in Gaby’s life before her dream of volunteering in the Congo is realized. Life is unpredictable, with a limited amount of aspects being in our control. In The Nun’s Story, Gaby faces several situations that prevent her from achieving her dream. However, she never gave up and continued to work very hard toward her goals. Other messages and themes that are found in this movie were personal responsibility, honesty, and taking time to care for one’s self.

A Month Without the Code banner
A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode65/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited amount of character development: Even though The Nun’s Story had a large cast, the film’s character development was very limited. For the character of Gaby, there is some character development to be found. However, because the story focuses more on Gaby’s journey of becoming a Nun, her character development seemed to sit on the side-lines. For the rest of the characters, their character development was either at a minimum or nonexistent. While the audience gets to become familiar with the characters, they never really get to know them.

Some segments being shorter than others: Because the narrative of The Nun’s Story focused on Gaby’s journey of becoming a Nun and her volunteer work in the Congo, other aspects of the story were shown in shorter segments. The beginning of World War II is a good example of this. Even though enough was shown to give audiences the intended point, it wasn’t explored as much as other parts of the film. If anything, it just felt like another stepping stone in Gaby’s journey.

Summer Under the Stars banner
Summer Under the Stars Blogathon banner created by Kristen from Journeys in Classic Film and Samantha from Musings of a Classic Film Addict. Image found at https://journeysinclassicfilm.com/2019/07/08/the-2019-tcm-summer-under-the-stars-blogathon/.

My overall impression:

Before and after Turner Classic Movie’s (TCM’s) presentation of The Nun’s Story, Ben Mankiewicz shared that Audrey’s favorite role in her career was her role in The Nun’s Story. After watching the movie, I can kind of understand why she would be so fond of this role. It’s very different from her other roles and the story itself is much more serious than some of her other films. Because of this, it allowed Audrey to become an even more well-rounded actress by exploring various acting methods. The Nun’s Story features a narrative that is rarely seen in films of its kind: the process of becoming a member of the Religious Order. Since this story filled a void that no one else had, it helped the movie bring a sense of uniqueness to cinema. Out of all the films I’ve seen for “A Month Without the Code”, I’d say that The Nun’s Story is one of the “cleaner” ones! It was even given a Production Code Administration seal of approval, the same one that was seen in the opening credits of many Breen Code films! There are only two things that I found that would have to be changed or eliminated if this film were released during the Breen Code era. The first is the underlying racism that can be found when Gaby goes to the Congo. Because this story takes place in the 1930s, I’m guessing that the inclusion of this topic was meant to provide commentary about the views of that time-period. The second is naked babies being shown on-screen. Since this happened in only one scene, these babies were not featured for very long.

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Have you seen The Nun’s Story? Which movie of Audrey’s would you like to see me review? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

If you want to read Debbie’s article about The Nun’s Story, visit this link:


6 thoughts on “Take 3: The Nun’s Story Review (A Month Without the Code — #4)

  1. Pingback: #AMonthWithoutTheCode65 Guest Article: “Take 3: The Nun’s Story Review (A Month Without the Code — #4)” by Sally Silverscreen | pure entertainment preservation society

  2. Pingback: #AMonthWithoutTheCode65 is Here! | pure entertainment preservation society

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  4. Great review! That’s a really good point about the character development–I guess when no one is allowed to share memories or just chat it makes it hard to get close to them.There’s a method to it, of course, but for a movie it’s a little tough to get into.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading my review, Rebecca! I’ve also noticed lack of character development in films that primarily focus on one character. ‘I Never Promised You a Rose Garden’, a movie I reviewed last year, is a good example of this.

      Liked by 1 person

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