Released in 2003, starring Jim Caviezel as “Johannes,” Joan Plowright as “Sophie” and Ben Tibber as the youth, “David” — for anyone reading this who has not yet seen this film — the film follows lead character David from a communist concentration camp in Bulgaria through his escape and arduous but successful journey across the Mediterranean Sea, across the entire length of Italy into Switzerland and then on into Denmark, where David is reunited with his Danish mother who long ago considered David as lost along with David’s English father from the earlier communist forces invasion of Central Europe.
David’s escape from the Camp and his journey and reunification with his mother are all made possible by miraculous, immensely kind and quite brave assistances from Johannes, Sophie and several others including Saint Elizabeth, patron saint of bakers. David has lived most of his still-young life behind barbed wire, deprived of nearly all tenderness save but for guardianship by his mentor and protective friend in the Camp, Johannes, and the journey itself takes on a second life for David. He struggles to smile — he has to practice at it — though he never hesitates to offer his own helps to those he meets, a child of civilization remaining civilized despite his hardships and dismal, fearful point of view that all of humanity is cruel.
Watching this film again today, I cherish the acute sentiment and goodness in small favors that David encounters along his way, each of which works toward such miraculous end as to be miracles themselves, these small but significant moments that people effort to make without even being asked to do so — the truest form of generosity — that result in good triumphing over evil.
The key moment in this filmed story — an adaptation to the screen by Paul Feig of the book by Anne Holm, “North to Freedom” — when David, who has experienced so much hardship and denigration in his youthful life to the extent that he despairs, is encouraged by Sophie’s kindness and wise advice to persevere in believing that many good people are all around him and that the world’s cruel ones should never discourage anyone to conclude that life is not to be lived by and among abundant good. And David hears his first hymn in his first church visit, greeted there by a kindly local policeman who David then understands he need not fear, if fear any longer anyone.
That this film is beautifully made in all aspects — screenplay and direction by Paul Feig, score by Stewart Copeland, cinematography by Roman Osin and particularly enchanting, poignant performances by Jim Caviezel, Joan Plowright and Ben Tibber — is just more of what’s great about this endearing work.