Based on events in the life of Josemaria Escriva (canonized by Pope John Paul II as a 20th Century Roman Catholic Saint) “There Be Dragons “ is a fascinating story.
Director and writer of the screenplay Roland Joffe created a fictional character Manolo Torres as a contemporary of Josemaria Escriva and the juxtaposition of the two lives in a terrible time enhances the value of Father Escriva’s works.
Robert Torres (Dougray Scott) has been asked to write a biography of Josemaria Escriva.(Charlie Cox.) He calls his father who lives in Spain to tell him that he will be coming to do research, even though they have been estranged for several years.
Rather than see Robert in person, Manolo (Wes Bentley) sends him tapes telling the story of his life and his connections with Josemaria. The story is revealed in a series of events, beginning with childhood and going up to the time of the Spanish Civil War, around 1938. We see the boys first as friends and equal in lifestyles and advantages. Manolo’s father is a hard businessman and Josemaria’s father owns a chocolate factory.
It is during a visit to the factory Josemaria learns from wise old Honorio (Derek Jacobi) that the cocoa bean is hard and rather ugly but with “patience, skill, hard work and love one can unleash the divine flavors hidden within.” It is the lesson of Josemaria’s life, as this theme occurs in many different times and events. While Manolo chooses a dark and wayward course, Josemaria makes every decision based on a love for life and his fellow creatures, and uses his skill and patience to try and help others live a better life.
There is much to harass him and to sway him away from both his belief and his calling, his life is often in danger in the war torn country, but he faces the dragons and never loses his way.
There Be Dragons is a fitting title for a story that abounds with challenges. In the ancient days maps would mark the unknown or dangerous areas with the legend “hic sunt dracones’ or “here there be dragons” to warn the traveler.
As Josemaria and Manolo travel through life, they pass through uncharted areas of immense danger to both body and spirit. Each man chooses his way and although Josemaria reaches safe passage a lot sooner than Manolo, it is with great hope and gratitude we see that the way has been marked for Manolo to follow to redemption and forgiveness.
There Be Dragons is presented on single disc with a playing time of 122 minutes. Special features on the disc are deleted scenes and a heartfelt interview with actor Wes Bentley whose honest testimonial to the power of this story in his life is touching and inspiring.
This film has a beauty that exists in spite of the wartime horrors of its time period.
There are moments of strength and courage, devotion and conviction as well as the belief that it can all be better. This isn’t a film that knocks the viewer over the head with the message; it is subtle and encouraging and leaves one with many thoughts.
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