Harold is an ordinary man who has passed through life, living on the side lines, until he goes to post a letter one day…and just keeps walking.
Based on a best selling novel, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ tells the story of an elderly man who sets off to send a letter to a terminally ill friend called Queenie, only to continue walking, and walking, until he can reach her in person. Inspired by a chance encounter with a petrol station attendant, Harold sets off in the belief that as long as he keeps walking, his friend will keep living, and that is further reinforced by the various other individuals he meets on his journey. The movie initially positions the possibility that Queenie was an old love interest of Harold’s, which is a little at odds with the sweet nature of the narrative, but does wisely make clear that isn’t the case as the story progresses.
I have really mixed feelings about this film, possibly more than any other film I’ve seen recently – at times it is sweet, charming and ultimately quite moving, but it can also be maudlin and contrived and I found myself cringing at some of the plot developments and saccharine conversations. It is directed by Hettie Macdonald and stars Jim Broadbent as the titular Harold Fry, a retired pensioner who lives at home with his wife Maureen (Penelope Wilton). They seem to exist in each other’s company without truly enjoying it and we’ll learn via flashbacks while Harold is on his journey as to some of the reasons why that is the case. It is a well shot movie that gets good mileage out of the lovely English countryside as well as the various towns and cities that Harold passes through on his journey, but it is really in the strength of the acting that ensures ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ is better than its slightly creaky plot. Broadbent is as wonderful as ever as Harold but it is Penelope Wilton who is truly brilliant as a woman conflicted about her husband’s behaviour.
I felt there were a few too many times where you really had to suspend your belief to buy into how the story unfolds and that did start to irritate me, but this is a movie with its heart in its right place – just one that lays it on a bit thick at times.
Directed By: Hettie Macdonald
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Penelope Wilton, Linda Bassett, Joseph Mydell and Earl Cave