If you are a writer, do not miss the new film “Papa – Hemingway in Cuba.” This is the true story of how writer Denne Petitclerc spent time with Hemingway near the end of his life. The story begins in the late 1950s, when Petitclerc, a young Miami Globe journalist, writes Hemingway a fan letter, assuming nothing will come of it. Instead, the legend invites him to go fishing, has him over for drinks, and then says, “We’ll be your family, kid.”
In the midst of the Cuban Revolution, Hemingway advises our young reporter on his writing, while Petitclerc continues to report back to his paper on the revolution itself. I did not know until after viewing this film twice, that Petitclerc wrote the screenplay for it. He had begun work on film production at the time of his death in 2006. This is the first major movie to be filmed in Cuba since the 1959 revolution.
As Petitclerc slowly enters into Hemingway’s turbulent personal life, he finds a world of anger and anguish. At that point in his life, Hemingway’s disappointments with writer’s block, impotence and the demons that haunted him from his past, lead to explosive alcoholic tirades, including continual suicide threats. Petitclerc soon sees how ‘Papa’ and Mary have a love/hate relationship, often putting him in the middle. He observes all this, and yet he enjoys building relationships with them, especially Mary, coming to appreciate the challenges she faces daily for being close with a legendary figure.
The greatest surprise for me, after enjoying the depth and excellence of this film, were the many negative reviews. I assume many viewers hated to see their favorite writer reduced to a common, raging alcoholic. But from all reports, that is exactly how he spent the last years of his life. He killed himself 18 months after this film ended at age 61. There is so much here for a writer to enjoy! If you listen carefully, you will be rewarded with many great lines of dialogue. For example: Two men talking about marriage at a bar at the beginning of this film: “The things we put up with for that micro-second of ecstasy.” I could also relate to the young writer’s plight, his desire to become a “real” writer, like when he announces to Hemingway and his friends that he finally sold his first story. I remember that feeling so well, back in 2006. It somehow seemed incredible to get paid just for my creativity in words.
This film is so well-written, well-paced and intellectually challenging. It successfully chronicles the highs and lows of a young writer’s impressions, while hanging with Ernest Hemingway near the end of his life. Fascinating!
Please note: Any films I see are available through the La Veta Public Library!
I disagree with every review I have read. See this film, you will not be disappointed.