January 20, 2012

Movie review: 'There be Dragons' emphasizes virtue of forgiveness

By Peter Zelasko

By Peter Zelasko

Roland Joffe’s engaging story in “There be Dragons” highlights the early life of St. Josemaría Escriva, and examines the heart of Christian life through the need for both giving and receiving forgiveness.

The film examines the “dragons” in life – those things that cause suffering and lead us away from God, such as guilt, hatred, jealousy and betrayal. In this way, the movie explores the heart of Christianity, the need to forgive, and to ask for forgiveness.

It reminds us that we are all called to become saints, and though we may have different paths to take, and that by recognizing and overcoming the dragons in our everyday lives, we can find the true way to redemption. 

Inspired by actual events, “There Be Dragons,” is set during the Spanish Civil War of the mid- to late 1930s, and tells a story of the Spanish Saint through the relationship of a father and son. Dougray Scott plays journalist Robert Torres who is assigned to write a book about Josemaría Escrivá (Charlie Cox), the founder of Opus Dei. Robert soon discovers that his own father, Menolo (played by Wes Bentley), not only grew up in the same town as Josemaría, but has his own story to share. 

Through a series of long flashbacks, the film shows the intense conflict that arose in Spain between the Nationalists attempting to protect the establishment and Republican revolutionaries seeking regime change in the 1930s, as well as the smaller and less obvious conflicts within the lives of the characters.

The film highlights a young St. Josemaría Escriva, who survived the war and went on to found Opus Dei. The early history of Josemaría is artfully portrayed through the story Menolo reluctantly shares with his son. 

Josemaría and Menolo grow up in two different families, where each experiences their own challenges. The two young men’s lives quickly diverge. 

Josemaría’s faith leads him into the priesthood, dedicating himself to “God’s work,” while always remembering that suffering has meaning. 

Menolo loses his father, takes over the family business, and eventually becomes a spy among the communist revolutionaries. It is during the war that he meets a beautiful young woman Ildiko (Olga Kurylenko), but all of his affections are rejected. Instead, she is drawn to the courageous communist leader, Oriol (Rodrigo Santoro). Soon Menolo discovers one of the biggest secrets of his life involving his father.

Menolo’s secret is painful, but as his son learns more about his father, an opportunity arises for true forgiveness and a healing of their broken relationship. 

Writer and director Roland Joffe’s thoughtful story seeks to remind us that “When you forgive, you set someone free: yourself.” We may not all be saints, but we are all capable of becoming one.

Violence and sometimes explicit combat sequences along with some crass language and sexual themes and references give the film a PG-13 rating. This film is appropriate for mature teens and adults. “There Be Dragons” was released on DVD January 10, 2012.


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