A Journal for Jordan

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

A Journal for Jordan
dir Denzel Washington
scr Virgil Williams
prd Todd Black, Denzel Washington, Michael B Jordan, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch
with Michael B Jordan, Chante Adams, Jalon Christian, Robert Wisdom, Tamara Tunie, Jasmine Batchelor, Marchant Davis, Susan Pourfar, Vanessa Aspillaga, Grey Henson, Johnny M Wu, David Wilson Barnes
release US 25.Dec.21,
UK 21.Jan.22
21/US Columbia 2h11

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Based on a true story, this drama is skilfully assembled to honour the tenacity of its characters. They definitely deserve it, even if the filmmakers' worthy approach leaves it feeling artificial. The story is consistently engaging, although director Denzel Washington struggles to generates much in the way of narrative momentum. This is largely due to a flashback structure and far-too-gentle tone. But the surge of emotion is lovely.
In 2007 New York, Dana (Adams) finds a busy life balance in being both a newspaper reporter and single mother to 1-year-old Jordan. To find peace, she reads a journal written by her late fiance Charles (Jordan), a soldier who was killed in action in Baghdad. This inspires Dana to document her own story about meeting the artistic, gentlemanly Charles a decade earlier. Encouraged by her military father (Wisdom) to date a soldier, their friendship blossomed into a lively romance. And then another decade later, the now-teen Jordan (Christian) needs to read the journal himself.
Because the script shifts around in time, the film needed much sharper editing to bring the story together into something involving. Instead, it's assembled as a series of warmly inspirational scenes focussed on the themes rather than story itself. Sparky characters in the margins liven up the occasional situation, but most of the film is so relentlessly affirming that it's in danger of becoming a Hallmark movie. Thankfully the real-life events undergird the script, which makes it feel important.

Because of their earthy chemistry, Jordan and Adams are very easy to watch, even if Dana and Charles' journey follows the standard trajectory, complete with bumps along the way. Each actor finds undercurrents as they juxtapose their characters' personal lives with their jobs. This is tricky since Charles is so perfect and Dana so resilient, but they add enough humanity to make them likeable and sometimes even sexy. Side roles remain very sketchy, adding colour but never quite coming into focus.

In its smaller moments, the film manages to capture some resonant emotions both in the love story and depictions of parenthood and grief. So it's somewhat frustrating that the extended running time is so padded out with lightweight sequences that add little to the bigger picture. And sentimental scenes are almost overpoweringly earnest. But then the facts of the story are genuinely moving, recounted with a strong sense of detail that pays homage to Charles' service to his country.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 18.Jan.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall