If I had to choose one word to describe “Miracle,” it would be “devastating.” This bleak tale from writer / director Bogdan George Apetri is a crime drama about morality and revenge that openly criticizes the corruption that plagues the country of Romania while exposing man’s capacity for evil. It isn’t pleasant nor easy to watch, but it is an achievement in not only the craft of filmmaking, but in the art of powerful storytelling.
A young nun (Ioana Bugarin) sneaks out of her monastery and travels to a medical office for an urgent procedure. Once she arrives, it’s clear why she is there. When she doesn’t return later that evening, a police detective (Emanuel Parvu) is assigned to investigate her fate. He retraces the young woman’s steps and uncovers clues that will hopefully help him solve the mystery of her sudden disappearance.
The first half of the film follows the nun’s journey while the second half focuses on the detective and his determination to do everything he can to see that the perpetrator doesn’t get to walk away from his crimes. Her story is particularly tough to watch, especially when she is brutally attacked by her taxi driver. It’s an absolutely heinous and violent physical and sexual assault, but Apetri films it in a way that makes it even more horrific. You never see the actual brutality taking place, but only see glimpses of the attacker through the trees. You hear the young woman’s muffled screams and cries for help that fade behind the ambient cacophony of howling wind, traffic noise from the nearby highway, and bleating herds of sheep. It’s a true gut punch that’s sickening and awful, and it will be something that stays with me for a long, long time.
The second half of the film is a crime drama that builds with a gradual intensity, and Apetri takes his time telling the haunting story. This is a film with quiet pauses, long takes, and even longer conversations, and is crafted in a way that lets viewers feel the passing of time. It’s an unpredictable slow burn that becomes even more effective as small details are revealed. For example: one of the more important plot points is that while the young woman is outfitted in a full habit, we learn she isn’t actually a nun and is just a novice who has been at the convent for about 8 weeks. She won’t be a true nun until several more years. It’s little details like this that become so meaningful to the story, especially in the way they are revealed to the audience.
“Miracle” finishes with a simple yet unforgettable ending that drives home the themes and tone of the story. It’s a powerful and painful drama that’s expertly executed in every possible way.
By: Louisa Moore