Released at a time when psychic auras, near-death experiences, and Kirlian photography were all the rage among early New Age proponents, Resurrection achieves a spiritual depth rarely found in Hollywood movies. In one of her finest performances, Ellen Burstyn stars as Edna McCauley, a transplanted farm girl who develops healing powers following an accident that left her widowed and paralyzed. Returning to her Kansas homeland, she attracts awe and controversy, performing healings while deflecting any pretense of religion. That's a risky position in the Bible belt, and even Edna's new beau Cal (Sam Shepard) responds with zealous incredulity, fearing what he can't understand while others embrace Edna with unquestioning faith. Through it all, Edna remains calmly resolute as the conduit of an extraordinary gift.
Sensitively written by Lewis John Carlino (The Great Santini), Resurrection tenuously mixes spiritual significance with John Ford's homespun tradition, but for the most part it works: Burstyn superbly conveys Edna's heartfelt determination, and both she and stage veteran Eva LeGallienne (in a rare and final film performance, as Edna's grandma) deservedly earned Oscar nominations. The movie dares to suggest that miracles reside within everyone, and that pure grace will manifest itself in unexpected ways. To that end, Richard Farnsworth is warm and wise in a brief but perfect role; Burstyn's final scene with Roberts Blossom (as her disapproving father) is a heartbreaker; and the film ends with an act of compassion that brings the story full circle as an affirmation of life's greatest mysteries. --Jeff Shannon
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