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  • Writer's pictureEugene

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (2023)

There were a few sniffles in the audience at the end of this film about one ordinary man’s 627 mile journey on foot to keep a terminally ill former friend alive. Jim Broadbent and Penelope Wilton’s quality of acting did not disappoint, but what did we think about the film in general?

Many of us had connections with the themes of the film and our discussion centred on the emotions it generated and the values it promoted. We talked about people’s need to make a difference; the way Harold finds so much kindness from strangers on his long freeing walk and how people deal with loss. It was felt that the suicide scenes could have been handled better; it was disturbing to see so much detail shown on film that didn’t need to be.

Several of us were distracted by the stray dog that latches itself onto Harold, wondering where he gets the dog food from and what happens when it runs onto a bus. This showed some issues with script and direction. Perhaps this could be a doggie pilgrimage follow-up (I jest).

We also wondered how Queenie could have taken the blame in the past. Harold throws heavy kegs around in the brewery, angry about the loss of his son. There’s no way anyone could have believed she did it. It was regretted that we did not see the young addict Wilf at the end, he supported Harold with his Christian faith but his story was left unresolved. This film was not without flaws.

The bokeh blurred background was overused as a filming technique – as it was a realistic film it seemed odd to blur out the background so often. On the other hand, the landscape was beautiful and there was a thumbs up to the decision to film during the colder months.

We talked about the symbols in the film, especially the shoes that were so important to Harold, they became a symbol of his sacrifice and suffering. There were moments of Christian imagery, for example, when the Slovakian doctor selflessly washes Harold’s feet. We talked about the rainbow crystal he brings Queenie and the shimmering light in the final scenes.

This was a film that explored some deep themes, such as penance, atonement, keeping faith, guilt and regret. However, writer Rachel Joyce would agree that the importance of kindness was central to this interesting and thought-provoking film. It touched many of us at Rusthall Community Cinema.

Anne Goldstein

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Jeanne Pope
Jeanne Pope
Nov 27, 2023

It touched a deep cord in my soul for different reasons. It was delicate and searching, yes some minor instances of silliness or absense of intent, however the wonderful Mr. Fry so compelling to watch upon his quest filled with metaphors and symbols, is not easy for me to forget. Merci Gorden, Anne, the wonderful caterers and of course our wonderful projectionist.

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