The real reason why the Church honors Saint Patrick shines forth in the new film “I AM PATRICK,” a docudrama which shows in theaters for two nights only on March 17 and 18, 2020. Written and directed by Jarrod Anderson, “I AM PATRICK” seeks to debunk many of the myths and legends which have grown up around Saint Patrick over the centuries in order to capture who he was as a man and follower of Christ.
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings), with his distinctive voice and stately bearing, brings Patrick to life as an old man, reflecting on his life and writing his “Confession,” laying out his life story for the detractors who have risen up during his evangelization of Ireland.
In this combination documentary and drama film, Anderson has brought together an impressive array of people to lay out what is known about Patrick. Experts such as historians Dr. Charles Doherty and Dr. Elva Johnson as well as authors such as Thomas O’Loughlin and Father Billy Swan weave a narrative that exposes Patrick for the amazing missionary he was.
The exact dates Patrick lived are not known but a letter from Patrick has survived from the late 5th century. Living in Roman Britain, he was the son of a deacon but his father’s position was more like that of a civil servant than a Church leader. Because Patrick (played as a teenager by Robert McCormack) was also expected to enter civil service, he was taught to read and write, but all plans ended when he was kidnapped by Irish raiders as a teenager and taken to Ireland as a slave.
In his “Confession,” Patrick describes his slavery as a wake-up call from God. His duties as a shepherd meant he was in danger from other raiders but the solitude also gave him ample time to reflect on God’s goodness and he slowly learned that God was a father he could trust. He began to pray and it was during this time that he developed a personal relationship with God.
Robert McCormack as Young Patrick in "I AM PATRICK." © 2020 NorthStar Studios. All Rights Reserved.
One night, he heard a voice urging him to go home, “for a ship was prepared.” Travelling 200 miles through lands where he could be re-captured, he came to the coast and found passage back to Britain. During all that time, he was not afraid “because he had come to know God.”
Eventually returning to his father’s home, his family was thrilled to see him but the Patrick that returned to them was very different than the Patrick who had left six years ago. He followed his desire to become a cleric, first, as an apprentice to the local bishop, and then being sent to Gaul (France) to study theology. In explaining Patrick’s journey to ordination, the film falters a bit, failing to explain the way one would have become a priest, then bishop in late Roman times. By saying that Patrick “worked his way up the ranks to become a bishop,” could be misleading.
The film then transports viewers to the middle of Patrick’s life. After a decade in Britain, Bishop Patrick (now played by Seán. T. Ó Meallaigh), acts on a call from God to return to Ireland as a missionary. Of course, everyone thinks he’s crazy, as legally, he would still be considered a fugitive but he insists that it is the will of God that he go. And go he does.
It’s no secret that Patrick’s evangelizing mission is a great success. The film does a splendid job at detailing just how much of a change it was for the Irish pagans to become Christian. But, just as seems common with pioneering people, the Church back home in Britain was uncomfortable with Patrick’s efforts and the way the Church was developing in Ireland. Even after decades in Ireland, Patrick still had his critics. It was for these that he wrote his “Confession,” saying that his only motivation in all the preceding years of work was “to bring people to Christ.”
John Rhys-Davies as Old Patrick in "I AM PATRICK." © 2020 NorthStar Studios. All Rights Reserved.
The mix of live-action and documentary elements blend well, keeping the film moving along as the story unfolds, with the help of Moe Dunford’s narration. The actors who portray Patrick in different stages of life, capture well the excitement, determination, and zeal Patrick displayed throughout his life.
By presenting “I AM PATRICK” in this day and age, Anderson has given viewers an opportunity to look at the life of this popular saint as the lover and proclaimer of Christ that he was. Perhaps in experiencing the way Patrick responded so fully to God’s calling, we might take a moment to reflect on how we live out God’s calling in our own lives.
“I AM PATRICK” shows in select theaters nationwide on March 17 and 18, 2020. Visit Fathom Events for theater and ticket information. This review first appeared on Catholic News Service.