What can one person do to make a difference in the world? A lot -- especially if that person is Mother Teresa. Yet how did a humble nun serving on the streets of Calcutta become a household name, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a saint? This movie attempts to tell her life story.
In 1946, India is experiencing political and religious unrest. Cloistered safely behind a secure wall, a young Mother Teresa (Olivia Hussey) performs her duties as a teacher in a Catholic High School. Then one day, trouble knocks on the front gate. A demonstration in the street has become violent, and an injured man is pleading for asylum. Following her heart instead of the orders of her superiors, the compassionate nun admits the hurt Hindu, angering the opposing Muslims and putting at risk the rights for her own Christian faith to operate within the traditionally non-Christian country.
Despite the understandable concern of her church leaders, Mother Teresa cannot contain her soul's sympathy. Wandering out of the convent and into the slums, the woman of God feels compelled to help the poor of the vast city. She is particularly moved by a beggar whose parched lips utter, "I thirst," the same phrase spoken by Christ while he hung on the cross. Firmly believing everything she does for the least of her fellowmen she does for her Lord, the devoted nun prays to know how to meet the overwhelming need. In answer, she glimpses a vision of what needs to be done.
As futile as her efforts seem at first, her determination is somehow contagious. Inspiring those around her, Mother Teresa petitions the Pope for permission to work on the streets and to start a new order called The Missionaries of Charity. With suborn faith and endless goodwill she cares for those no one else will look after, and as she does so, the necessary money and supplies miraculously appear. Along the way, media attention and criticism also catch up to her, proving to be both a blessing and a hindrance.
Considering the reality of the situations in which Mother Teresa worked, the film does its best to depict disease, death and starvation with as little graphic content as possible. With the exception of some bloody wounds, implied deaths, and moments of violence, the movie paints an inspiring story of a selfless sister who saw herself merely as a pencil in God's hands. She ascribes the credit for what her life writes directly to Him.
Interwoven in the lines of the script are words of wisdom acquired from years of simple service, including her insight on the universal question of finding meaning and purpose in life. According to Mother Teresa, everything we do is just a drop in the ocean--but if we don't do it, that drop will be missing. Thanks to her unwavering sacrifice for others, her legacy has deluged our world.