No Greater Love (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner08/04/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

No Greater Love provides a fascinating glimpse of a rarely seen world and contains some genuinely moving and thought-provoking interviews, but the material between the interviews is both frustrating and repetitive.

What's it all about?
Directed by Michael Whyte, No Greater Love takes a look behind the convent walls of the Carmelite Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity, in the heart of London's Notting Hill. Founded in 1878, the monastery is home to a group of nuns who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience – they are also required to be completely silent except for two periods of recreation per day.

Shot in a fly-on-the-wall style, the film observes the nuns as they go about their daily routines, including prayer, hymns and tending to their chores. Occasionally, Whyte conducts to-camera interviews with a few of the nuns (notably Sister Mary of Saint Philip and Sister Christine Marie), who speak candidly about their lives and their beliefs.

The Good
The interviews are by far the most fascinating part of the film. Questioned on whether silence affects the way you think, Sister Christina Marie speaks movingly and poetically, revealing that “Silence becomes music, full of life and expectancy. There's grace in it.” Similarly, several of the nuns speak about death and they're also remarkably candid about their doubts and fears, such as when Sister Mary of Saint Philip observes that when the initial wonder of entering the convent wears off, you do wonder if you're just “sitting there, talking to yourself on your knees.”

The Bad
The problem with the film is that the interview sections are frustratingly brief and the rest of the film is taken up with the painstaking details of their (entirely silent) day-to-day activities. Arguably, Whyte is attempting to convey the realities of their lives for the audience, but it's impossible not to find your mind wandering while you're watching kitchen chores or bell-ringing.

That said, the film does throw up the odd surprising moment – for example, many of their daily chores and rituals remain unchanged since 1878 and then suddenly there's a cut to a nun on the internet ordering their daily shopping from an online supermarket.

Worth seeing?
In short, No Greater Love is a well observed, occasionally fascinating and genuinely moving film but you can't help wishing there had been more interviews and less padding.

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Content updated: 16/07/2018 13:53

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