The Improbable Journey of Harold Fry**
the Hettie McDonald
British film, 1:48
Boredom weighs on Harold and Maureen Fry’s dull living room to the point of crushing any spark of life. In their house in Devon (south-west of England), Maureen strives to track down dust that does not have time to reach the carpet with her vacuum cleaner. Harold takes refuge behind his newspaper. One morning, he receives an envelope posted from Berwick-upon-Tweed, the northernmost town in England, sent by a former colleague, Queenie Hennessy. Suffering from cancer, she has just entered a palliative care unit and bids him farewell. He writes in return a small card of a fascinating platitude.
On the way to the mailbox, Harold speaks with the young cashier of a grocery store who talks about his aunt suffering from cancer and the beneficial effects of a diffuse faith in life: “The essential is there”, explains- she puts her hand on her heart. Harold adds “wait for me” on the envelope he posts and sets off: he is going to join Queenie on foot as far as Berwick-upon-Tweed. He attaches no importance to the fact that he has on him only the clothes in which he left the house, that he has only ever walked to reach his car and that his destination is more than 700 kilometers.
A walk inward
In 2012, Rachel Joyce published her first novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a bestseller published in France under the title The Letter that was going to change Harold Fry’s destiny arrived on Tuesday… Jim Broadbent who lent his Voice at the Audiobook reprises the on-screen role. He perfectly embodies the candid determination of Harold Fry – “I’ll walk and you will live”, he repeats to himself – and the flaws hidden under the mask of phlegmatic politeness. Because behind the pleasant eccentricity of the initial remarks emerges a couple devastated by a tragedy and the responsibility of a man, who had distinguished himself until his departure by his extraordinary passivity.
Throughout the journey, Harold Fry progresses towards an interiority that is always ferociously repressed so as not to be overwhelmed by grief and guilt. By opening up to himself, he can finally make room for others, starting with Maureen whom he calls from telephone booths. Without losing any of its depth, the film deals with humor nicely tinged with emotion of the walker’s encounters and the enthusiasm he arouses in spite of himself in the media and on his way. Modest like its hero, The Improbable Journey of Harold Fry also has the unexpected grace.