The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry [8/10]

Based on a tear-jerker novel that had the courage to peer into some dark spaces, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” turns out to be better than the book, and still very much intrinsically weepy but wrapped in barbed wire. Mousy retiree Harold receives a letter from an ex-colleague recently shoved into a hospice eight hundred kilometers north, and on impulse decides to walk (having never walked before) to sustain her with the power of some intrinsic faith. The movie tracks his painful, then blissful trek up the spine of England, whilst resurrecting the most dire of repressed memories. The book was solipsistic and the movie even more so, and Jim Broadbent puts in the performance of a lifetime as the naively determined every-person who eventually achieves novelty fame and a following of “pilgrims.” Penelope Wilton nails the other key role, that of the even more mousy wife left behind. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is as gentle a movie as you would expect with the novel’s author penning the script, but superb cinematography, maxing out on scenery end the art of the trudge, means that the plot never flags. The ending almost ends up saccharine but resists, and the film triumphs as a result.

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