Letters that heal: a review on the film ‘Letters to Father Jacob”

Father Jacob 5We live in a time of emails and text messages, and hence not easy to understand the forgone days when one waited for the post man to deliver letters. But, to understand the spirit of the finnish film ‘Letters to Father Jacob’, what one needs is only a sensitive heart. This cute little masterpeice, directed by Claus Haro and released in 2009, is a heart-warming experience to say the least.

The protagonist of the film is a blind old priest name Jacob living alone in his dilapidated parish house. Blind for years he has not been administer the sacraments in his small parish church for years. He subsists on the tiny morsels of bread he eats little by little every day. The core of his daily activity is writing replies to the letters addressed to him from people who narrates their sufferings to him. At a juncture, when he has no one to read out the letters and write reply for him, a pardoned prisoner named Leila Steiner comes to assist him. She has been in prison for stabbing her sister’s husband. The hefty woman is full of hatred for the world. Although with reluctance, Stein begins to assist the old priest in his letter ministry. The letters are full of prayer requests and recounting of sorrows. Father Jacob replies each one with a quote from the Bible.

Stein hates the post man who brings the letters, because she is tired of replying them. As days go by, she begins to hid the letters and tell the priests that there are no more letters. She chases the post man away. When letters cease, the existence of Father Jacob becomes meaningless and spiritless. Letters cease as there are no replies from him. One day, when two periodicals come by post, Stein feel moved. She, pretending as if reading a letter, narrates her own life story to the priest. The story of how she killed his brother-in-law to save her sister. She believes that her sister would not be able to forgive her and accept her. But, the reply of Father Jacob stuns her. In fact, from the day Stein was imprisoned, her sister had been sending letters to the priest requesting prayers for Stein. It was she who pressurized the authorities to obtain pardon for Stein. Hearing this Leila Stein breaks down into tears. Later when she goes back to the priest’s room, she finds him dead with serenity written all over his face!


The film reminds us that little acts of kindness like writing a reply to wounded souls does have far-reaching effects. It leaves profound and lingering impact on the viewer, even after leaving the cinemas hall.


F. Ezek.