2008 // USA // Karen Kearns // November 16, 2008 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Tivoli Theater)
Karen Kearns' That All May Be One is less a documentary than a feature-length bit of boosterism for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, whose American arm is based here in St. Louis. Kearns boasts a background in television and radio, and it shows. Out of native pride and an acknowledgment of Kaerns' constraints, I hesitate to label That All Be One amateurish, but it does present itself with the earnest competence and nary a whiff of aesthetics that characterize just about every human interest segment in local newscasts. That said, as a nonbeliever, I'm perhaps an appropriate test for Kaerns' bare bones aim: Does she render the subject compelling? I think so, but not because the glowing treatment of the Sisters' work—at St. Joseph Academy, the Institute for the Deaf, Nazareth Living Center, and so on—is intrinsically engaging. Rather, it's the simmering social problems beneath the surface that snag one's attention, which Kearns intuitively backgrounds while allowing the sisters themselves to speak with veiled sharpness. If the Catholic hierarchy of the next century desires a record of where this century's Great Schism began, they might glimpse it in the words of the sisters and laity Kaerns profiles.