The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
A first-rate cast (Jim Broadbent and Penelope Wilton) and light-handed filmmaking elevate this quintessential British drama. There are nicely nuanced textures woven into this story, based on the book by Rachel Joyce, which touches on some very dark themes. It’s notable that director Hettie Macdonald manages to avoid letting it become either sentimental or preachy, allowing the message and the emotion to emerge through the actors’ performances. In South Devon, Harold (Broadbent) gets a note from former colleague Queenie (Bassett) simply saying goodbye as she enters hospice care in Berwick-Upon-Tweed. Harold’s wife Maureen (Wilton) bristles at the mention of her name. But Harold goes out to post a reply letter. Then he just keeps walking, inspired by a garage clerk (Singh), hoping Queenie might try to stay alive if she knows he’s coming. But this is a 600-mile trek, and he isn’t exactly prepared. Still, he gets advice, support and some company along the way, becoming a fixture in the evening news.
Broadbent is a likeable hero, an everyman pensioner who embarks on this unexpected journey when pent-up feelings are released. He never overplays the role, and maintains a wonderfully wide-eyed curiosity that reveals Harold’s layers of self-discovery. Wilton is particularly strong as the even more repressed Maureen, who reacts with anger and frustration before slowly excavating her own long-buried emotions. Their scenes together are beautifully played. And the sparky supporting cast, many in one-scene roles, is excellent.
Venue: William Loveless Hall