“The only value we have as human beings is the risks we are willing to take.”
Ernest Hemingway, winner of a Pulitzer for fiction and the Nobel Prize for literature, may be as well known for his lifestyle as his writing. He lived–shall we say–boldly and with attraction to manly pursuits. He also suffered from severe depression, which finally led to his suicide. Papa: Hemingway in Cuba is the first Hollywood movie to film in Cuba since the 1959 revolution. Parts are even filmed in Hemingway’s home. It is based in an autobiographical screenplay by Denne Bart Petitclerc (although his character’s name in the film is Ed Myers) about how as a young writer he came to be a part of Hemingway’s life.
Myers (Giovani Ribisi) is a young reporter in Miami. He has issues with abandonment that keep him from making a commitment to his girlfriend Debbie (Minka Kelly). But when Debbie finds a fan letter Myers has written but never sent to Hemingway (Adrian Sparks), she sends it and soon Hemingway calls Myers and asks him to come to Cuba for fishing. The two men begin to form a bond, giving Myers a father figure he has never had, but one with a very dark side.
Myers enters this relationship with a strong case of hero worship. He recounts how when he had nothing, he used Hemingway’s writing to teach himself typing, language, spelling—and what it means to be a man. As he spends time with Hemingway and his wife Mary (Joely Richardson) that worship never goes away, but it is tempered through seeing the destructive behavior Hemingway so often exhibits. He is already deeply suicidal. He can be explosive and cruel to the people around him. Yet, even in all this, Myers continues to pick up lessons from Hemingway about life.
This is a story about a “great man”, but it shows just how flawed and injured such a person can be. Do those flaws and injuries negate the greatness? We often think of those who have been important influences in our lives with glowing memories. Sometimes our admiration for who someone is can be destroyed when we discover the dark parts of their lives. Teachers, political leaders, pastors, mentors all bring blessings to our lives, but none of them are without fault. Do we abandon them because of their problems? In this film, Myers is not only willing to stand by Hemingway in his most trying times, he feels a loyalty to be there for him. It is, in fact, a bit of how Hemingway in his writings taught him to live.
Photos courtesy Yari Film Group