Romero: An underappreciated biopic

Some of these films can be off the wall and zany, others are more straightforward and serious. It is the latter treatment which most biopics are treated including, in this case the life of Oscar Romero the archbishop of San Salvador from 1976? until his death in 1980.

The film stars Raul Julia in what is perhaps his most unusual, yet nonetheless, one of his most powerful roles as an actor. The film follows Romero shortly before his installation as archbishop of San Salvador, he is seen as an influential figure and one which the people respect. When he becomes archbishop it is hoped that this will lesson his influence and mean that he settles into a quiet religious life. Up until now Romero has been seen as a thorn in the side of the authorities and they hope that his new role will mean that he will feel unable to speak out against the violence and poverty which is rife in El Salvador at this time. This does not happen however and Romero soon finds himself at odds with the military authorities in the country. Alongside Raul Julia are other familiar faces including Richard Jordon, known for roles in such films as The Hunt for Red October and Tony Plans, who spent almost an entire lifetime playing near anonymous villians and bit-parts in various TV shows throughout the 80’s and 90’s before landing the role of Betty Suarez’s father in Ugly Betty.

With this in mind it is perhaps surprising therefore that Julia is expected to carry this film quite so much, and he does it abley so as he portrays a spiritual leader who leads his people in the fight of a lifetime, for the soul of his country.

Often stark and graphically (but not gratuitously) violent, the film gives the audience just enough detail about the political background of El Salvador to understand Romero’s story without getting sidetracked by background issues.

As a result this allows the narrative to flow smoothly and makes for a film which the viewer can enjoy and understand both for the political aspects of El Salvador as well as the spiritual life which Oscar Romero lead and the philosophies which guided Oscar Romero. Before watching this film this particular reviewer had only a vague knowledge of who Oscar Romero was. This film does enough to peek interest in both Romero and the country (and people) he loved.

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