Edna Mae (Ellen Burstyn) is happily married to Joe (Jeffrey DeMunn) and though they regret they cannot have children, other than that they could not be happier. After an enjoyable day at the beach with a couple of friends, they head off home and spend the evening in each other's arms as it is Joe's birthday the next day and Edna wants him to be in a good mood. No wonder, for as a present she has bought him a TR7 sports car he has had his heart set on, it's waiting for him as he comes out of work and he's so delighted he cannot wait to try it out so off they drive along the coast, revelling in their new puchase. That is until they reach a residential area, and a little boy skateboards out in front of the car...
Resurrection was a drama on an unusual subject matter (for the movies) that when it was released was barely attended by audiences; it wasn't a complete flop, but for a film where it was nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, you might have expected it to have enjoyed a higher profile, yet it fell through the cracks. Just about, anyway, as there were those who caught up with it down the years and responded to its deceptively simple tale of a woman who acquires a talent after a car accident. In its way it was very conventional, having Edna survive the crash that kills her husband and undergoing what appears to be a near death experience, the sort of material that makes up any number of New Age paperbacks.
But although this was based very loosely on the experiences of faith healer Rosalyn Bruyere who served as a "technical advisor", religion wasn't uppermost in the main character's mind as when Edna finds she has a special ability now she has gotten through her ordeal, she doesn't necessarily believe that was given to her by a benevolent God, and neither, as some reactionary types assert, was it Satan who gave her this gift, it's merely something to do with her essential decency as if the universe decided to make up for the loss of her beloved husband by saving others from crippling or life-threatening illnesses and conditions. Sort of a give and take, then, but while she is not necessarily an unbeliever in the Christian God, she doesn't count herself as a regular churchgoer.
This brings about an intriguing tension in the film that occasionally erupts into hot tempers and worse. Recuperating, Edna moves back in with her family in rural Kansas, though she has never gotten along with her father (an intractable Roberts Blossom) but is very close to her grandmother (a warm and wise performance from legendary stage actress Eva Le Gallienne, the recipient of the other Oscar nomination), so this could help as she tries to get walking once again. It is out there in the isolated region that she becomes known as a psychic healer, attracting interest from locals and scientists alike, which brings its own problems. Sure, she is making lives better, but a lot of people want to know why either for religious or scientific reasons, and that causes turmoil.
Sam Shepard played Cal, the younger man who Edna saves from a barroom brawl knife injury and then becomes obsessed with her. She is won over and welcomes him into her bed (this doesn't go down well with her father), but he cannot reconcile the unpretentious and reasonable woman before him with the Christian teachings that have influenced him for far longer, and he demands she accept she is the Second Coming which she cannot agree to. This was not a place to discuss the validity of faith healing, the film simply goes with it as a device to confront both religious issues of tolerance and the wider manner in which life can be made easier to deal with when it tends to throw up so many obstacles out of the blue by certain people who just make things better, and Ellen Burstyn with her generous spirit was the perfect embodiment of that. And yet, there was a nagging feeling this was one of those films where how much you brought to it depended on your appreciation, as its restrained tone would not prompt the tears in sceptics or even the indifferent. Music by Maurice Jarre.