Boston Film Fest Review: ‘Papa’ is a Stunning Slow Burn

Annie Lindenberg ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Giovanni Ribisi in Papa. Photo Credit: Sunstone Film Productions.
Giovanni Ribisi in Papa. Photo Credit: Sunstone Film Productions.
The Boston Film Festival opened with a bang on September 17 as it brought Papa to the screen for the very first time. Telling the true story of journalist Ed Myers (Giovanni Ribisi) as he meets his childhood idol Ernest Hemingway (Adrian Sparks), the film is set to a backdrop of a turbulent Cuba in the 1950’s. The film depicts a time in Hemingway’s life never previously explored as he falls into depression and alcoholism, lending a fresh, biographical tale for the audience.
Papa is the first movie to film in Cuba in over 60 years, one of the film’s potentially greatest assets. The location provides a beautiful backdrop for the unfolding story through scenic shots which truly encapsulate the time period and setting. Filming in Hemingway’s actual home helps the performances from the main actors truly come alive, specifically for Sparks as he takes on the role of Hemingway. Sparks falls so easily into his role it’s easy to forget it isn’t Hemingway himself up on the screen.
Sparks and Ribisi embody the characters they play perfectly, and though at times the movie struggles to decide exactly what it wants to be, they hold it together like a finely-crafted glue. The first half of the movie is continually shifting between wanting to be a documentary or a drama, slipping between shaky cam and sharp cuts. This leads to poignant acting moments intermingled with touching music, but as it finds its stride somewhere in the middle, the second half of the film ties the two sides together to form a smooth story.
Through the war and drama, Papa at its heart is a story of a young man trying desperately to find someone to look up to. As Myers becomes closer to Hemingway, a man he has cherished for most of his life, it’s easy for the audience to identify with, and as Hemingway’s mental health rapidly declines, it’s heartbreaking and yet again identifiable as Myers realizes that not all idols are as perfect as they may seem.
Overall, Papa tells a gripping story with stunning acting and cinematography. Its only true fault is that it takes a little too long to get there.
Overall Grade: B

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