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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Warm Bodies

By
Adam Shaw
Source: Catholic News Service


Teresa Palmer and Nicholas Hoult star in a scene from the movie "Warm Bodies."
Wouldn't classic love stories like Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" be all the better if zombies were thrown into the mix?

Agree or disagree, that's the basic thrust of director and screenwriter Jonathan Levine's "Warm Bodies" (Summit)—an oddly touching picture based on Isaac Marion's novel of the same name. Unusual for its genre, this monster mash goes light on the gore, and contains a surprising number of Christian-friendly themes.

The premise is as old as boy meets girl ... well, nearly. A mysterious virus has turned vast hordes of humanity into flesh-eating monsters, and those who have remained human are camped out in hastily built fortresses.

One of the undead, known as R (Nicholas Hoult), finds he's able to think semi-rationally, and even curb some of his brain-munching instincts. He grapples with this realization as he comes across the very-much-alive Julie (Teresa Palmer). Somewhat inauspiciously, R initially spies Julie while he's ingesting her boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco).

Nonetheless, on a whim even he finds surprising, R rescues Julie from certain death at the hands of his hungry companions. He then keeps her safe and fed, and also entertains her with the collection of vinyl records he preserves in the grounded plane that serves as his base.

As his relationship with Julie blossoms, they both come to recognize that R is becoming more and more human with each passing day. And he might not be the only zombie to be affected by this phenomenon. It's a process that begins with the emotional stirrings of the once-flatlined heart, and may end in a fully restored life.

The couple must use their newfound knowledge to try and reconcile the zombie gangs with the militaristic humans, the latter led by Julie's father, Gen. Grigio (John Malkovich). This task is all the more urgent because a new enemy threatens both groups: So-called "Boneys"—zombies in the last stages of decay who roam the earth as evil skeletons.

Redemption, in Levine's script, comes through love, whether it be R's deepening feelings for Julie or other zombies' recollections of their beloved families. Those who have no such reaction, by contrast, are consigned to torment as their need for flesh consumes them.

R initially believes he has no choice but to follow his base cannibalistic desire. But once he meets Julie, he discovers that, while the temptation to do so is still strong, he is able to resist it in order to become a better—more fully alive—person.

R's restraint in the pursuit of virtue may represent an unusual version of asceticism. Yet, by analogy at least, it certainly stands in contrast to the prevailing message of contemporary society that happiness can be found by pursuing every materialistic or bodily urge.

However remotely, given the context, R's discovery that self-denial can result in our becoming more human—and better able to care for those we love—does echo Jesus' exhortation to take up the cross and follow him.

The film contains some restrained gory violence, occasional profanity, at least one instance of rough language and about a half-dozen crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Adam Shaw is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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