I Am David

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Movie Review by Lisa Henshall

Starring: Ben Tibber, Jim Caviezel, Joan Plowright, Hristo Shopov, Silvia De Santis, Paco Reconti
Director: Paul Feig

I AM DAVID follows the desperate journey of a boy, David (Tibber), following his escape from a violent forced labour camp in Bulgaria in 1952. Through flashbacks we discover that he was incarcerated as a small child because of his parent’s political views, but with only fleeting memories of his mother, he was cared for by kindly prisoner Johannes (Caviezel), who then helped him to escape, entrusting him with an important envelope that he must travel to Denmark to deliver – he’s told to trust no-one because the information he’s carrying would lead the authorities right back to the camp.

The journey is dangerous and terrifying for a boy who has never known life outside the camp and is travelling alone… or at least it should have been. Somehow the film never quite manages to create the necessary atmosphere of fear and isolation which David is supposed to be feeling. There are solid performances from all the actors and Tibber does a good job of portraying the melancholy of a boy who doesn’t know how to smile and is finally discovering there is another world away from the cruelty he’s experienced.

The cinematography is beautiful in places, establishing the two worlds of David’s past and present: the bleak greyness of the Bulgarian labour camp compared with the sun-drenched Italian countryside which takes up most of his journey. The musical score is provided by Stewart Copeland (ex-drummer of Police, who has written many excellent soundtracks for movies) and interspersed with his music are snippets of some well known pieces of classical music. But none of it touches the soul and at times feels very bland and unmoving.

The film is a gentle, family film which you may want to take your kids to see but feels more like a Sunday tea-time drama on TV. But ultimately for an adult audience, it feels remarkably unengaging and somehow the sum of the parts does not make for a satisfying whole. I was left wondering why there weren’t tears streaming down my face, considering the theme of the film. But the box of tissues by my side remained untouched.

3 out of 6 stars