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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry might be likeable but it isn’t good: from the phoned-in morals to the by-the-dozen characters, the movie takes zero risk and thus reaps few rewards.

I never read the bestselling novel that The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is based on, but judged by the quality of the film adaptation I can only imagine that the charms of the book must have been lost in translation.

That might sound harsh considering there isn't much inherently wrong with this picture about a pensioner who goes on a two-month walk to visit the hospice where an old friend is dying of cancer. Then again, there really is no excuse for how safe and predictable the story plays out.

Still, that's not the worst part about this adaptation. That would be the at times wholly unbelievable, gratingly religion-infused, moralistic conversations the lead characters has with random people he encounters during his pilgrimage, none more so than a talk with a middle-aged guy who out of the blue confesses a kinky fling with a young gay guy.

With actors like Jim Broadbent and Penelope Wilton on board, you might hope that they will elevate the material, but alas that is not the case here. Broadbent is severely hampered by a plot device so worn any emotion he tries to wring from it is immediately rendered stale, while Wilton does a phoned-in riff on the much more interesting character she played in Ricky Gervais' Netflix series After Life.

In short: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry might play well for the octogenarian crowd on a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV, but as a piece of cinema it isn't even fit as a light palate cleanser.

release: 2023

director: Hettie MacDonald

starring: Jim Broadbent, Penelope Wilton, Joseph Mydell, Daniel Frogson


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