If you are like me and unsatisfied with most of the entertainment that is readily available in media today, you should take a look at this new movie “Many Beautiful Things.” It is a so-called “docu-drama” on the life of Lilias Trotter. I had never even heard her name until yesterday when I heard Laura Waters Hinson interviewed on the Eric Metaxas Show. (I’m not sure when he actually interviewed her – I listen to the podcast.)
Lilias Trotter was born in the mid-19th century in England and very early in her life captured the attention of John Ruskin who was a prominent artist, critic and intellectual of that day. Ruskin was captivated by Trotter – both her person and her art – and tried to influence her to build a career as a painter. He told her then that she could have been the greatest English painter of her generation. She flirted with the idea, spent a lot of time as a student of Ruskin, produced lots of wonderful paintings and drawings and then decided to give her life as a Christian missionary to the poor women of Algeria. She lived in Algeria for 40 years and died in 1928.
The story of her life is compelling on many levels. Her decision to forgo certain fame and critical acclaim as a painter in favor of a life dedicated to Jesus Christ in direct service to the poorest of the poor is amazing. But the careful and beautiful exposition of her paintings and drawings and writings (she wrote several books – journals of her work with the poor and her spiritual journey) is also profoundly moving. Her paintings and sketches of the English countryside and the Algerian desert are sublime.
The production values of the film are tip-top and do justice to the wonder of Trotter’s life and art. Michelle Dockery reads from Trotter’s journals and other works and John Rhys-Davis is the voice of John Ruskin.