Saving Grace (1986 film)

Saving Grace is a 1986 film directed by Robert M. Young, produced by Herbert F. Solow, and starring Tom Conti, Giancarlo Giannini and Edward James Olmos. It is based on a novel by Celia Gittelson with screenplay by Richard Kramer and David S. Ward under a different name.

Saving Grace
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert M. Young
Produced byHerbert F. Solow
Written byRobert M. Young
Richard Kramer
David S. Ward (as Joaquin Montana)
Tom Conti
Based onthe Novel by Celia Gittelson
StarringTom Conti
Fernando Rey
Erland Josephson
Giancarlo Giannini
Donald Hewlett
Patricia Mauceri
Marta Zoffoli
Edward James Olmos
Music byWilliam Goldstein
CinematographyReynaldo Villalobos
Edited byPeter Zinner
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
May 2, 1986
Running time
112 minutes
Box office$18,209

It was the last film to be distributed by Embassy Pictures.


A year after his election, a youthful Pope (Conti) longs to be involved in ordinary people’s lives again, as he was when he was a priest.

During an audience, the Pope communicates with a deaf mute young girl whose village has no priest. Accidentally locked out of the Vatican, the Pope travels to the small impoverished and demoralized village, his identity concealed by his beard growth. He realizes that the people need to rebuild a dilapidated aqueduct but, more importantly, that they must regain their community spirit and self-sufficiency. Without expertise and, initially, only the help of some street-wise orphans, he starts construction. All this is watched skeptically by a mysterious neighbour played by Giannini and opposed by local thugs led by Ciolino (Olmos) whose ill-gotten gains depend on the village remaining overly dependent on outsiders.


Although this movie is often classified as a comedy, it has serious themes, including what it takes for a community to develop resilience and how redemption occurs. The "cry" "heard" from a mute girl for a priest in her village comes at a time when the young Pope is going through a spiritual crisis. When he locks himself out of his lofty Vatican world, he makes his way to Montepetra (Mount of Peter, or stone) and begins to grasp his true vocation again by challenging tyranny and helping return water (baptismal grace) to the community to restore their strength. In Christian thought, there is always sacrifice of those who initially resist, then come by grace. It is a saving grace, as even the most skeptical of the community discover.

Production and release

The movie was shot in Italy: in the cities of Rome, Mantua and the ghost town of Craco.[1]

Saving Grace premiered in the United States on May 2, 1986, and in the Philippines on April 11, 1987.[2]

Critical reception

Walter Goodman of The New York Times said, 'There's no more engaging actor around than Tom Conti, but not even he, with the assistance of such notables of international moviedom as Giancarlo Giannini, Erland Josephson and Fernando Rey, can lift Saving Grace out of its slough of sentiment.'[3]


  1. "Saving Grace (1986): Cast, Credits & Awards". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  2. "Opens Today". The Manila Standard. 11 April 2018. p. 13. Our Lenten Offering
  3. Walter Goodman (18 July 1986). "Movie Review - Tom Conti stars in 'Saving Grace'". The New York Times.
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