Director: Bronwen Hughes
Starring: Ben Schnetzer, Ella Purnell, Kelly Macdonald, Maria Bello, Sam Hazeldine, Yusra Warsama, Gugun Deep Singh
The Journey Is the Destination is based on the true story of photojournalist and activist Dan Eldon. His tale is an inspiring one — albeit heartbreaking — as well. Born in London and raised in Kenya, Eldon achieved so much during his short 22 years. In the early 1990s, he led a group of his closest friends on a safari across Africa, donating money and aiding refugee camps throughout Malawi. The film briefly highlights this trip but its main focus is on Dan as an aspiring photojournalist during his time in Somalia, where he would become Reuters’ youngest photojournalist in history and, sadly, where he was killed in 1993.
The story of Dan Eldon (Schnetzer) was never going to be easy to translate onto screen as there is just so much to cover — a remarkable feat for someone who died so young. The film packs a lot in, from Dan’s graduation up until his death and, in doing so, occasionally loses focus as the camera never quite stops moving, especially in the beginning. The first hour, in particular, is injected with colour and life — evoking images of Dan’s journals — and Hughes just about manages to keep up with him on his travels. It’s an exciting watch but the latter (and better) half is when the seriousness of the subject matter really kicks in. We follow Dan in Somalia as he documents (for Reuters) the violent famine and the disastrous US Marine landing that resulted in a wrongful bombing. The ensuing riot claimed the lives of Eldon and three other journalists as they were stoned and beaten to death by a mob in Mogadishu.
“The Journey Is the Destination” is one of Eldon’s many life mantras and his story never fails to inspire as well as being undeniably emotional. The cast is wonderful here too. Macdonald is a delight as Dan’s sort-of-mentor and Bello (as Dan’s mother), while slightly strained in the beginning, shares touching scenes with Schnetzer as the film continues. However, it is Schnetzer who transcends the film, perfectly capturing the spirit of Eldon and unafraid by his complex emotional state as the film and his dangerous surroundings progress. Schnetzer effortlessly combines Eldon’s zest for life with passionate humanity.
The film is vibrant, violent and sad but it celebrates Eldon’s exceptional life well. Despite another brilliant, charismatic performance from Schnetzer — who elevates the film greatly — The Journey Is the Destination just falls short of truly capturing the soul of this extraordinary young man. However, the film is an eye-opening story and you would find it difficult not to fall in love with such an inspiring human being.
“To explore the unknown and the familiar, distant and near and to record in detail with the eyes of a child, any beauty, (of the flesh or otherwise) horror, irony, traces of utopia or Hell. Select your team with care, but when in doubt, take on some new crew and give them a chance. But avoid at all costs fluctuations of sincerity with your best people.”
Image © IMDb