Directed by Bob Yari
Produced by Amanda Harvey, Weezie Melancon, Michael Pacino and Bob Yari
Written by Denne Bart Petitclerc
Cast: Giovanni Ribisi, Joely Richardson, Adrian Sparks and Minka Kelly
A failure in both commercially and critically, Papa: Hemingway in Cuba is the chronicle of the last days of Ernest Hemingway in a pre-Castro Cuba. It wasn’t well received, yet I personally enjoy the film. I felt the film had a very strong emotional resonance at its core.
The last years of Ernest Hemingway were far from his happiest moments. It was a spiral into never-ending depression as Ernest lost a part of himself, for a writer like Ernest it was not surprisingly the ability to write. Writing for Ernest Hemingway wasn’t just a means for a living but more importantly a form of solace from depression or other hardships. A simple moment that illustrates this point is when Ernest is typing to standing up( it was an iconic habit of his), and yet Ernest can’t bring himself to type a single word. A moment that the movie touches upon poignantly later when we get the confirmation Ernest won’t commit suicide for the time being when we hear the clicking of his typewriter. Ernest isn’t probably a likable character; his big ego probably prevents him from becoming one. Yet, to see a man of vast talent reduced to this pathetic state is strangely humanizing.
Ernest is the centerpiece of the story; however, the story isn’t viewed through his eyes, instead, a young journalist named Ed Myers. Ed is a self-confessed ”Hemingway fanboy” who has been in admiration of Hemingway all his life. Many of the characters that Hemingway interacts with shows a different side of Hemingway, for Ed, it is the paternal side of Hemingway. Ed is based on a real-life associate of Hemingway, some might find his character utterly unnecessary, but Hemingway is changing the life of this lost man is the essence of the film. Excusing a few awkward scenes, Ed’s story is somewhat moving. And let’s just say, the side that Mary Welsh Hemingway brings out isn’t so pleasing.
A story that wouldn’t be as effective if it wasn’t for the actual Cuban backdrop that was used. Without it, Papa: Hemingway in Cuba would be closer to a lackluster TV movie in quality. The Cuban backdrop adds a sense of visual veracity that is hard to match; a veracity in the visuals that elevates the film’s story. A feature that is best exemplified in the use of the actual Hemingway home in Cuba. A cozy mansion draped in a gorgeous white marble that’s like a home out of a magazine catalog. This home was the site of similar events that transpires in the movies; making a few events of the film almost a surreal reenactment in an odd way. Setting aside authenticity, the whole Cuban locale gives the film a pleasing tropical look that makes Cuba look like an inviting place. Or the vastness of the empty sea makes you feel serene.
Papa: Hemingway in Cuba’s attempt to be a political thriller is half-hearted and even a bit forced for my liking. The reasons behind Ernest Hemingway’s political troubles require better explanation. Though the political element of the film makes the story uneven, the underlying emotional resonance is too strong to make this film a completely bad one.