A Real-Life Super Hero in a Black Cape

As a young girl, I attended Catholic schools for 12 years and was a member of the Catholic Church for the first 31 years of my life. Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini was a name I had heard through the years. First, I was taught by nuns, and Cabrini was the first American nun canonized a saint. When I heard about the film by Angel Studios, I was skeptical about the content in this film. In this Cabrini Christian Movie Review, I will give you the info you need before viewing this film with your family.

Imagine stepping back into the slums of New York City. It is 1889, and the viewer sees NYC through the lens of Francesca Cabrini, an Italian immigrant with a monumental mission. This isn’t just any story; it’s the heart and soul of the Cabrini movie, a biopic that delves into Cabrini’s unwavering dedication to securing healthcare and housing for the city’s most vulnerable. Directed by Alejandro Monteverde, this film transcends time, bringing to life the themes of hope, resilience, and social justice, which remain as relevant in today’s society as they were in the 19th century.

Cabrini by Angel Studios movie poster

Key Takeaways:

  • Biopic Brilliance: Cabrini offers a compelling look into Francesca Cabrini’s mission-driven life in 19th-century New York City.
  • Timeless Themes: The movie’s focus on hope, resilience, and social justice provides inspiration to today’s audience. Furthermore, it highlights an important aspect of history that is often forgotten.
  • Social Justice Spotlight: It uniquely emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurial spirit in addressing social issues.

Cabrini Christian Movie Review – Synopsis

Studio Synopsis:

Based on the true story of one woman’s fight for the equality, health, and happiness of immigrant orphans.

From Alejandro Monteverde, award-winning director of Sound of Freedom, comes the powerful epic of Francesca Cabrini, an Italian immigrant who arrives in New York City in 1889 and is greeted by disease, crime, and impoverished children. Cabrini sets off on a daring mission to convince the hostile mayor to secure housing and healthcare for society’s most vulnerable. With broken English and poor health, Cabrini builds an empire of hope, unlike anything the world had ever seen.

My Synopsis:

This film is based on the inspiring true story of Mother Cabrini. While Mother Cabrini, an Italian nun, wants to travel to the East to help the poor and orphans in China, Pope Leo XIII sends her to New York City to help the plight of fellow Italian immigrants. Her journey to America is hard, and she is met with much resistance. There is little empathy or compassion for the “dirty Italians” that occupy Five Points. While Mother Cabrini shows great respect for all people, she finds herself taking on the establishment to provide for others. 

A nun in a black outfit meeting with a Cardinal in a poorly lit church

Cabrini Christian Review – What Parents Want to Know


Probably one of the most important things to understand is the prolific use of subtitles. The entire beginning of the movie is filmed in Italian with English subtitles. When Mother Cabrini arrives in the United States, she says to the other nuns that they will now speak in English. However, throughout the film, there are moments of Italian spoken with subtitles. Children may have difficulty keeping up with the dialogue.

While there is very little foul language, there are a few instances of language. Someone says, “Get the h-ll out.” Additionally, son of a b-tch is spoken. 

A woman is called a hooker and a wh-re. She is, in fact, a prostitute.

The other area of language is the use of racial slurs. Italians are called “filthy dagos,” “guineas,” “mafia boy,” “brown-skinned filth,” and more throughout the film. Additionally, Cabrini herself uses racial slurs for other ethnicities (Irish, Polish, Jewish) to drive home a point – mick, pollack, kike.


The Italians live in an area called Five Points. It is overcrowded without adequate housing, and crime is rampant. Children live in the sewers. A woman is shown with a black eye given to her by her pimp. Later, a young boy shoots the pimp. While the gun is fired, you do not see the man being shot, and he is not seriously injured.

A young woman is attacked and hit in the face repeatedly. She is about to be killed but stabs the man, and he dies. A young girl is found dead in the sewers. However, she is given a proper burial.

Men and children working in a pump station are injured and killed when there is an explosion. They are seen bloodied and bandaged. 

A nun meeting with the Pope

Spiritual Content: 

First, this film is about a Catholic nun, so there is a lot of Catholic imagery from the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, churches, crosses, and statues. The Vatican is shown several times throughout the film, and Mother Cabrini has an audience with the Pope. Additionally, there is a scene where Pope Leo XIII has several people kiss his ring. 

Next, this film is by Angel Studios and is just one of their religious films that highlights faith. You “can do all things in Him who strengthens us,” is spoken. This is Philippians 4:13. Furthermore, Cabrini states, “Begin the mission, and the funds will come.” This is one of the few moments in the film that calls attention to Cabrini’s faith and not her own determination. She also states, “God’s wrath will descend upon you” when standing up to a criminal.

Mother Cabrini collapses, and some “good Samaritans” bring her to a doctor.

Throughout the film, when Mother Cabrini faces criticism and resistance, it is often because she is a woman. She doesn’t let that deter her. Furthermore, she uses Mary Magdalene as an example of a strong woman. Other Bible stories are referenced including David and Goliath.

Finally, at the end of the film, we learn more about the life of Mother Cabrini. She became the first American Saint, and is considered the Patron Saint of Immigrants. 

Orphans sleeping on the streets of New York City in 1890s

Other Content: 

One character is a prostitute, which is implied the first time we encounter her. We later learn she became a prostitute as a child to survive. She is shown with a low-cut dress that hangs off her shoulder.

There are several instances of smoking, both cigarettes and cigars. Furthermore, drinking alcohol is commonplace with both the poor and the rich. People are shown drunk. 

A little boy describes how his mother and father died. Papa killed himself with a gun. Mama died of typhus. The opening scene shows a small boy pushing his mother in a push cart and screaming for help. He goes to a hospital and is pushed out because they don’t help dirty Italians.

Cabrini highlights the plight of the downtrodden, but it is somber and sad in many ways. This is definitely a heavy movie but with inspiring moments.

Positive Content:

This is a film about a strong woman, but it is also a film about the plight of the Italians in the 1800s and early 1900s in America. From a historical aspect, the film teaches a truth that has been forgotten. Additionally, it highlights the Catholic church and its role in helping (or not helping) others. Cabrini helps the poor, the sick, and the less fortunate. In addition to opening orphanages, Cabrini also opened schools and hospitals around the world. She was not just concerned with a person’s spiritual status but also their physical needs, including nice clothing and good food.

The film has a great redemption story that shows Mother Cabrini’s love for all people. The prostitute is welcomed into the orphanage, and she helps the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

Cast & Production Brilliance:

The brilliance of Cabrini is not just in its storytelling but also in the artistry brought to life by Alejandro Monteverde’s direction and the stellar cast, including Cristiana Dell’Anna, David Morse, and John Lithgow. Their performances, combined with Monteverde’s astounding cinematography, elevate this faith-based film into an inspirational cinematic experience that leaves a lasting impact. Every camera angle and every shot is expertly executed to make this film a brilliant masterpiece.

Teaching About the Real-Life Mother Cabrini

When you use films like Cabrini to teach your children, make sure to include outside sources. While this film highlights Mother Cabrini’s life, including her fear of water and the fact that she almost drowned as a child, it takes some creative liberties. Mother Cabrini was indeed a short woman at 5 feet tall. However, she did not have dark hair and dark eyes, but rather, she was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Italian from Northern Italy. When I see a glaring error such as this, I often begin to wonder what else they got wrong about the life of this strong Christian woman of great faith. 

Read a biography or explore the reasons why she was made a saint by the Catholic church. Also, explore the differences in the word Saint from a Catholic perspective and a Protestant viewpoint.

Furthermore, talk about movies that highlight women of faith. While Barbie was the hit of 2023, it is based on a child’s toy. As a society, we highlight many of the things that don’t matter in life. However, the lives of real-life strong women, including mothers and those who sacrifice to teach their children, should be highlighted.

A nun with a black hat smiling with a young girl.

Cabrini Christian Movie Review – My Viewing Recommendations

While Cabrini is an excellent film in many ways, I left the theater disappointed. While overall, this film is an inspiring portrayal of the real-life saint, Mother Cabrini, it left me feeling unsettled. As I contemplated what was bothering me and discussed the film with my family, I pinpointed what was missing in this movie. 

It is said that nothing St. Frances Cabrini accomplished was her idea. Rather she consented to God’s will. Furthermore, she prayed and trusted that the Lord would provide funds. Sadly, this is something that is not shown explicitly. Rather, the movie, which is released on March 8 (International Women’s Day), highlights the strength and determination of a woman. Society has plenty of strong women. However, what we are missing are strong women of great faith. Mother Cabrini fills that role, but this powerful story glosses over who she was in Christ.

Maybe Angel Studios thought the implication that a nun would be a person of great faith, but a film that highlights unwavering faith is needed today.  

In grappling with the challenges of providing healthcare and housing for the vulnerable, the narrative invigorates the spirit of faith and determination in us all. As an Oscar nominee, its compelling storytelling transcends simply being a religious film; it is an inspirational journey that resonates deeply with the heart. I ardently encourage you to experience this beacon of hope in cinema for yourselves. However, due to the nature of this film and adult themes, I do not recommend it for younger viewers. Children under 11-12 years old will likely be bored, but even some older children will have difficulty with some of the elements of Cabrini. 

About Cabrini:

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: March 8, 2024

Runtime: 2 hours, 25 minutes

Genre: Biographical Drama

Studio: Francesca Film Production NY, Lupin Film, Lodigiano Film Development Inc.

Directed by: Alejandro Monteverde

Written by: Rod Barr

Produced by: Jonathan Sanger, Leo Severino

Editor: F. Brian Scofield

Music by: Gene Back

Distributed by: Angel Studios

The Cast of Cabrini

Cristiana Dell’Anna as Francesca Cabrini

David Morse as Archbishop Corrigan

Romana Maggiora Vergano as Vittoria

Federico Ielapi as Paolo

Virginia Bocelli as Aria

Rolando Villazon as DiSalvo

Giancarlo Giannini as Pope Leo XIII

John Lithgow as Mayor Gould

Federico Castelluccio

Giampiero Judica as Father Morelli

Eugenia Forteza as Sister Umilia

Closing Thoughts:

Proverbs 11:11 Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper, but the talk of the wicked tears it apart.

Too often, we have settled on the government handling society’s woes, but the body of Christ is actually called to heal the sick, feed the poor, and care for the widows. We are called to be upright citizens and to take care of our fellow man. We, like Cabrini, can make a difference in our communities.

Cabrini Christian Movie Review

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