We’ve heard about There Be Dragons for well over a year now in Catholic circles. In recent weeks, the talk surrounding the film has ramped up, with camps on both sides of the “See It” and “Don’t See it” opinions sharing their take all over the Catholic blogosphere.
Truth be told, I intended to share my “take” ten days ago, before the launch of the film here in the US. But events conspired and my trip to Rome set me behind on my blogging. Sadly, my delay means that by the time you read this There Be Dragons will already have come and gone in some markets.
But I’m going to chime in anyway, not because I’m an experienced film critic, but because I know that some of the moms out there in our family of readers will go looking around for reviews of this film even in the future, when it goes to DVD.
I have to say that I actually truly enjoyed my viewing of There Be Dragons. I was fortunate enough to receive a screener of the film in advance of its release. Not having read anything about the movie in advance of watching it and knowing very little about the life of St. Josemaria Escriva, I had no preconceptions. I didn’t know that the amazingly talented Barbara Nicolosi has initially been involved in the project (but sadly was not involved after that initial phase), or that its writer and director Roland Joffé — who calls himself an agnostic — was a later arrival to the original concept. I simply sat down on an airplane, watched the movie, and enjoyed the experience.
As I said, I’m not a film critic or even a highly evolved movie expert. I tend to watch movies from a mom’s perspective, with an eye towards whether or not I feel they would be acceptable, and enlightening, viewing options for my two teenage sons. I watch for our readers, moms with kids of all ages, and dads and singles too, who want a good value for the money they spend on their entertainment options. I watch from my perspective as a Catholic, wanting to see films that respect and are true to my faith and to our Church.
If you’re interested in viewing There Be Dragons for yourself, I invite you to read the links I’ll post below to more professional reviewers who have commented on the film more professionally. For myself, I will tell you that I found the film to be entertaining, and an introduction to the life of a saint I now want to know more concretely. I never trust Hollywood depictions of our saints – it’s my job to go do homework on who they really were, not the “made for the big screen” versions of their lives. St. Josemaria’s story is told in the context of this film in a made up story, one involving a central character who never really existed in real life. The story is compelling (largely do to a wonderful performance by Charlie Cox), but I find myself wondering how even more moving it could have been if they’d told the REAL story of the saintly founder of Opus Dei. And speaking of Opus Dei, this film’s treatment of the often confused institution intrigued me and made me want to learn more. If you visit their US website, you’ll even find their resources related to this film.
I enjoyed several things about There Be Dragons. It introduced me to a saint I’ve heard a great deal about and want to know more intimately. The storyline captivated me, I found the acting compelling, and I felt it treated our Church with respect and dignity. As a mom, I was a bit concerned by the violence in the film (although it definitely could have been worse and was appropriate given the subject of the film) and a few sexual references that were never gratuitous but that definitely make this a film for older teens. In short, I liked the film, I would share it with my older teen sons, and would recommend it to friends. I would not use it as a primer on the life of St. Josemaria and would not show it to children or younger teens.
If you’re looking for reviews on the film, I’d recommend the following:
Interview with Producer:
So now it’s your turn — have you seen the film? Did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it to a friend? What would you have changed, and what did the filmmakers get just right?