There Be Dragons (… and There Be Free DVDs)

To celebrate the DVD release of “There Be Dragons,” Catholic Exchange is giving away five DVDs of the film. Details are provided at the end of this article.

“In order to love and serve God, it is not necessary to do extraordinary things. Christ asks all men without exception to be perfect as His heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt 5:48). For the great majority of men, to be holy consists of sanctifying their work, to sanctify themselves in their work, to sanctify others with work, and also to find God on the road of their life.” ~ St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei

Ever since I was a child, I have loved reading stories of the saints. I find inspiration in their practice of heroic virtue and comfort in the fact that ordinary people can become extraordinarily holy. As an adult, I am particularly interested in the lives of modern saints. I think it’s fascinating that people who have flown in airplanes, watched TV, and actually lived and breathing during my lifetime (or shortly before) are now canonized saints.

Based on this interest, I jumped at the opportunity to screen the film “There Be Dragons,” a fictionalized account of the life of St. Josemaria Escriva (who would celebrate his 110th birthday this week if he were still alive). The story is relayed in flashbacks through the recollections of Escriva’s childhood friend, Manolo (Wes Bentley). Manolo’s painful memories are unearthed when his estranged son Robert (Dougray Scott) begins to research a book on Escriva (Charlie Cox) and discovers that his father briefly attended a seminary with the saint. Against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, father, son, and saint face the titular dragons of their intersecting lives.

Although “There Be Dragons” did not set any box office records or receive critical acclaim, I found the film absorbing. I’ve watched several other saint biographies that depict their subjects as literally glowing with heavenly light, so it was refreshing to see the very human portrayal of St. Josemaria. He made mistakes, he had doubts, and he even gave a fellow seminarian a bloody nose.

Unlike some small-budget, Christian-themed movies, the production quality and acting are excellent. At times the picture was too dark, and it was difficult to see exactly what was going on in certain scenes, but the film overall is very professional.

Parents should heed the PG-13 rating as this is not a movie for children due to mature themes and realistic wartime violence. Older teens might enjoy watching an account of a saint who died shortly before they were born and seeing how he navigated the political and cultural landmines during a time of extreme conflict between left and right, much like our present age.

I appreciated the fact that this film was not just a biography of a saint of our times. The use of Manolo, Robert, and other fictional characters helped to develop the themes of loyalty, betrayal, and forgiveness while contrasting the increasing virtue of Josemaria with the descent into vice of his childhood friend. Although the film hints at the controversy of Opus Dei, the organization founded by St. Josemaria, it is not the focus of “There Be Dragons.” Perhaps this movie might inspire viewers to learn more about this colorful saint of our own time.

If for no other reason, “There Be Dragons” is worth seeing based on its positive portrayal of forgiveness. According to Joaquin Navarro-Valls, a former Vatican spokesman, the producers of the movie “are daily receiving messages of thanks from people who see the movie and decide to return home after years of separation, from spouses who are reconciled, from parents and children who have come to accept one another again, from others who return to God after a long time of being distanced from him.”

“There Be Dragons” is being released on DVD and Blu-ray on  January 10. The film is rated PG-13 for violence and combat sequences, some language and thematic elements.

*Catholic Exchange readers have an opportunity to win one of 5 free copies of the “There Be Dragons” DVD. Simply leave a comment on this article, and you will be entered in the contest. Remember, you must first log in or register as a new user in order to leave a comment. Deadline for entering is January 16 at midnight Pacific Standard Time. Winners will be notified through their registered email addresses, and the names be posted in the comment section below on January 18. Be sure to check back in case the email didn’t get through your spam filter. If winners do not respond with a mailing address by January 23, then a new winner will be selected.

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