Despite the title, “My Last Year with the Nuns,” this is not a romp through the Alps with Julie Andrews. A more likely name might be “The Secret Lives of Capitol Hill Altar Boys.”
It’s based on a stage monologue by Matt Smith, who re-creates his depiction of Catholic Capitol Hill in 1966. Smith was an eighth-grader at the time, and he uses sharp, funny and sometimes raunchy detail to recall the ups and downs of a church-based adolescence.
Smith would not spend another year with the nuns, but he vividly recalls those last months when he and his gang hung out at the Paper Shack (Seattle Times “newsies” picked up their papers there), learned about racism (especially redlining), studied shoplifting techniques and found unsuspected uses for the word “heterosexual.”
The really bad boys were dubbed “the magnificent seven” for their ability to take the blame for misdeeds even when they weren’t necessarily guilty. Casually animated sequences divide the movie into sections. Costume changes occasionally make clear which characters are speaking.
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Much more than a photographed one-man play, Bret Fetzer’s film makes spare but clever use of Seattle locations that represent the churches, schools and playgrounds where Smith’s adventures took place. The starring role goes to photogenic St. Joseph’s Church.
John Hartl: email@example.com