There is something just not cool about a Virgin Mary statue with a neon halo. And the protagonist of Lourdes, Christine (Sylvie Testud), knows it. Paralyzed from the neck down by multiple sclerosis, Christine has been on enough of these organized trips for the handicapped that she recognizes one of the handsome volunteer officers from the Order of Malta when she travels to the holy (and wholly commercialized) titular French shrine known for miraculous healing. He doesn’t remember her, though, and initially seems more interested in flirting with the giggly young woman tasked with looking after Christine. In fact, many of the volunteers quickly grow bored and start shirking their duties, though in Christine’s case there’s an upside—does she really want to listen to a talk about skiing and finding meaning in her life, when Christine feels there’s no point to hers? Testud is impressively subtle in the role, her character smiling politely when others ask if she’s happy to be there but otherwise giving the impression that she isn’t very religious and may have only the faintest hope of being healed. Director Jessica Hausner skillfully re-creates the stillness and loneliness that Christine feels with plenty of wide, static shots often focused on no one in particular—before letting the action wander offscreen. Other characters include a pair of nattering biddies who criticize everything and everyone even as they hope for a Mary miracle themselves, a stern lead volunteer who’s hiding an illness of her own, and Christine’s elderly but able-bodied roommate, who makes it her mission to help Christine experience as much of Lourdes as she can. When an apparent miracle does occur, the story becomes even more provocative as hypocrisy and jealousy embitter other supposed Christians who are resentful it didn’t happen to them. Lourdes gets a knock for a pace that is achingly slow. But its story, style, and performances trump its leisurely unspooling.

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