NEW YORK, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Love Actually actress Lucia Moniz said she relished the dichotomy of playing a devout Catholic who doubts her own daughter's claims of seeing the Virgin Mary in Fatima, a film based on real events and people.
"Maria doesn't believe in her daughter and she is also afraid of what impact this is going to have on everyone, which is something that shouldn't be the priority," Moniz told UPI in a recent Zoom conference.
Instead of being stunned by her daughter's story, worried about what her neighbors will say and fearful that God will punish her family because her child lied, the actress said Maria should have respected her daughter's convictions, then defended her.
"It doesn't mean that she believes the Virgin Mary appeared, but believing in her daughter, that's a different thing and that's very, very important between parents and sons and daughters -- to have communication and connection," Moniz added.
Maria is a pillar of her community and the mother of Lucia dos Santos (Stephanie Gil from The Salisbury Poisonings,) a 10-year-old shepherd who, along with her two young cousins Jacinta (Alejandra Howard) and Francisco de Jesus Marto (Jorge Lamelas,) reported seeing apparitions of Jesus Christ's mother in 1917 Portugal.
Goran Visnjic (Timeless) plays the town's secular mayor and Joaquim de Almeida (Warrior Nun) plays the parish priest. Both men, along with Maria, try to persuade Lucia to recant her story, but the child never wavers.
As World War I rages and the Spanish flu pandemic erupts, thousands of religious pilgrims flock to the titular village in hopes of witnessing a miracle.
The Roman Catholic Church investigated Lucia's claims and decided they have merit. The church is nearing the end of its process to canonize Lucia, who died in 2005, as a saint.
Jacinta and Francisco, who died of the Spanish flu as children shortly after the alleged miracle, have been declared saints by the church.
"I want everyone to see how strong Lucia was, despite what her mother told her, what the church told her. No one believed in her and she just kept going," Gil told UPI in a separate interview about how her character was treated at the time of apparitions. "I want everyone to know that you should never give up. Just go for what you want and believe in yourself."
Visnjic appreciated how ordinary the children appear in the film and how they stay true to their faith, even when the grownups around them try to stop them from telling their story.
"They're not portrayed as any saints or anything. They're just three kids taking care of their sheep and suddenly there is this beautiful young lady who comes to them," the actor told UPI.
"She tells them some beautiful things and she delivers this message they need to tell people and they just do that. There was no malice. So, they're really surprised when these adults suddenly start creating all this turmoil and politicians and church and government" got involved.
Fatima was made in 2019, before COVID-19, but Moniz said 2020 viewers will relate to the hardships pictured in the movie and possibly feel inspired by it.
"A hundred years ago, it was the Spanish flu and, actually, Lucia's mother passes through that and she's very sick," the actress said.
"This film also brings up the importance and the power of love and, for me, faith is equal to that -- how far we go for love, what we do for love and what we believe for love and to unite everyone, no matter their religion. It's just people, human beings that should all be together to make a better world."
It is up to an individual whether to believe the Virgin Mary visited three children in Europe a century ago, Visnjic said, acknowledging that, in a modern society where technology and information are readily available, it is difficult to convince the doubtful that an event actually happened without concrete evidence.
"I just like to go back to basics and I like to say, 'What was the message these kids were delivering?' It's a beautiful message. It's a positive message. It's about: love each other, pray more and be kind to each other," Visnjic said. "That's something that we should take after watching this movie. It's a message of love."
Co-starring Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs) and Sonia Braga (Kiss of the Spider Woman,) Fatima is available on DVD and digital platforms. It was directed by Marco Pontecorvo whose credits include Game of Thrones and Letters to Juliet.