The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Film Review

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Film Review
by Frank L.

Director – Hettie Macdonald
Writer – Rachel Joyce
Stars – Jim Broadbent, Penelope Wilton, Earl Cave

This film, which depicts an unlikely story, is based on the novel of the same title by Rachel Joyce, published in 2012. Harold Fry (Jim Broadbent) is retired and lives with his wife Maureen (Penelope Wilton) in a seaside corner of South Devon. Out of the blue he receives, in the post, a letter from an old friend Queenie Hennessy. She is in a hospice in Berwick-on-Tweed in the North-West. He promptly writes a reply. On his way to post it he changes his mind and instead of posting it, he decides bizarrely to walk the several hundred miles to the hospice to visit her. He is totally ill-equipped for the task. Notwithstanding the lack of preparation and without letting Maureen know he starts his walk. In order to accomplish it he has to rely upon the kindness of strangers whom he meets along the way. In addition, his unlikely walk attracts the attention of the media and a motley crew of followers. The result is that Harold has to interact with a whole galaxy of individuals. As he walks, he has the opportunity to reflect upon his life. All of these interactions and reflections give an insight into Harold and his past. He explains in a phone call to Maureen “I have spent my life not doing anything and now at last I am”.

Broadbent is entirely at home playing Harold. It is a part that suits him admirably and he dominates as he is in front of the camera for a substantial part of the film. Wilton represents his humdrum past and she captures the frightened horizons of Maureen’s existence. The panoply of other characters who populate the story all add colour and substance.

The length of the film is only 102 minutes. It gives Jim Broadbent the vehicle to display his many talents as an actor. While at all times it engages, you have a sense that some of the encounters are there as filling. On the other hand, his reflections on his past reveal more of the essence of who Harold Fry is.  With that reservation, let yourself be won over by the eccentricity of it all. It is heartwarming tale.

Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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