Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring:||Ben Tibber, James Caviezel, Joan Plowright, Maria Bonnevie, Silvia De Santis|
|Distributor:||Lions Gate Films|
“Believe in the power to change your destiny.”
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “David, a 12-year-old boy, escapes a Communist concentration camp with little more than a compass, a sealed letter, a loaf of bread, and instructions to carry the letter to Copenhagen, Denmark. Not even knowing where Denmark is, David must first make his way from Bulgaria to Italy, etc. David is thrust into the free world for the first time in his young life as he travels across Europe. It is a spiritual voyage of discovery, where David slowly loses his instinctual mistrust of humanity and begins to smile, share, trust and ultimately, love.”
Most people are either running to something or running from something, but in the film I Am David, our twelve-year-old hero does both. Escaping from peril time after time, this young boy flees his known enemy while venturing out into a new life of the unknown. Plagued most by fear and guilt, he manages to discover what it means to live, as well as love, and his courage to pursue a promise is rewarded with something far more special than he could have imagined.
Beginning in Bulgaria in 1952, a parentless boy, David (Ben Tibber), escapes from a prison camp with instructions to head north to Denmark. Having never lived outside of the prison camp, David has no reference for how the outside world operates. What he does have is a small bag of supplies, memories of what others have told him about the world, and basic instructions on how to get to Denmark. But his journey has a two fold purpose by helping him not only find a better place to live, but also to find out who he is and what he is worth.
Superbly directed by Paul Feig, this entire film is an exceptionally clean, uplifting and touching story. Some of the events depict harsh circumstances in the prison camp, emphasizing the evil conduct that occurs there, but displaying it mostly through the tone of those scenes. There is an act of violence we know about, but it is not shown. This film refrains from showing anything exorbitant in regards to violence, but still maintains an effective level of drama. What we focus on most is watching this young boy struggle to survive and find true freedom.
This story was adapted from Anne Holm’s book North To Freedom and includes a lot of the same plot and feeling. What is interesting about the book that did not appear in the movie is how David has a discovery of God. He calls out to Him in faith after recalling Psalm 23, written by someone with his same name. On several occasions, David calls out to God for help, and God helps him. I think this idea is a wonderful factor that ties in to David’s exploration of life, but it wasn’t really included in the movie. Instead there is a different sort of adaptation with a saint that he believes helps him. It would have been wonderful to have that added in because the execution and poetry of the rest of the movie outshines the book.
However, one interesting aspect in the movie that was not in the book centered on the character of Johannes (James Caviezel). During David’s time in the prison camp, Johannes provided the best friendship David had ever had, and since Johannes was much older he also gave him insight and knowledge about life. It is also through Johannes that a sacrifice is made in order to keep David alive. This facet of the story provides a definite allusion to Christ and what He has done for us in order for us to have true life. Furthermore, David’s overall journey is like a believer in Christ’s pilgrimage in this life, where one must listen to and trust one voice above all others in order to reach our destiny.
This film was certainly no disappointment. It left me feeling quite moved long after I watched it. The musical score and cinematography were both highly effective. The moments of humor are also appropriate and work very well. Feig was able to effectively communicate the inner fear of this young boy and create in us a sympathy for him, sometimes without even realizing it. For many reasons, this is a very engaging film and provides a rewarding experience.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
“…No more memorable or moving film going experience has come along this year!…
—Bill Fentum, United Methodist Reporter
“…A genuinely moving story that avoids cheap sentimentality and earns our emotional involvement… with a remarkable performance by young Ben Tibber…
—Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Tonight
“…So far the best film of the year!… An entrancing story for children and adults!…
—Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press
“…A hymn to ordinary happiness—which those in the free world take for granted… Rare indeed to find a serious film that is also moving, historically accurate, well-made and appropriate for the whole family…
—Mona Charen, nationally syndicated columnist
“…Artful, moving, and beautifully crafted. Superb performances make “I Am David” a film of unexpected emotional impact…