A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN (2021)
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Chanté Adams, Jalon Christian, Robert Wisdom, Johnny M. Wu, Tamara Tunie, Gregory Sanon, Cleveland Berto, Nicholas G. Sims, Vanessa Aspillaga, Susan Pourfar, Joey Brooks, Spencer Squire, Annabel O’Hagan, Doris McCarthy, Lauren Yaffe, Stephen Sherman, Nate Luis Silva, Samuel Caleb Walker and Vincent Tumeo.
Screenplay by Virgil Williams.
Directed by Denzel Washington.
Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 131 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Strangely enough, the movie A Journal for Jordan barely mentions the titular journal and it doesn’t spend all that much time on the character of Jordan, either.
Based on the 2008 memoir A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor by journalist and publisher Dana Canedy – which she wrote for her son to tell him about his father and the journal which he wrote for their child while serving in Iraq, where he was killed in action.
Since Jordan was not yet born when First Sergeant Charles Monroe King (Michael B. Jordan) died, the book was trying to explain to the boy about how his parents met, how they fell in love, the hardships they faced, why they never got married (they were planning on marrying when he got back from Iraq), and how excited he was to become a father.
Therefore, the great majority of the film focuses on the relationship of Canedy (played in a star-making turn by Chanté Adams) and Sgt. King. In fact, much of the film, bouncing backwards and forwards in time, plays like a bittersweet romantic comedy – which honestly may not be doing this story complete justice – but it does humanize the characters.
In fact, the whole idea of the journal full of life lessons for a son he would never meet is barely even hinted at for a huge part of the movie. Although the death is shown right at the start and the film is framed as a mother telling the story of their love to their son (side note, some of the details she shares seem a little inappropriate to tell a young boy), the entirety of the first hour and a half or more of the movie is just about the relationship.
Sadly, although Jordan (the actor, not the son) has limitless charisma and charm, his character is a bit of a one-dimensional blank slate – a good, honorable, loving man with six pack abs. Adams’ lead character is allowed more nuance, but the actress also probably brings more to the woman than is shown in the script.
The film has a well-earned sentimentality – the ending reminded me of a similarly heartfelt military tribute in the devastating but long-forgotten 1990s film In Country – which pays off the slightly transparent attempts to pluck at the heartstrings which have preceded the climax.
A Journal for Jordan is directed by actor Denzel Washington, but with little of craft and personality which suffused his earlier excursions into direction like Fences, The Great Debaters and Antwone Fisher. A Journal for Jordan feels like it could have been directed by pretty much anyone and come out about the same. For the first time, Washington feels more like a gun for hire than an artiste sculpting the storyline. This is not to say that Washington does a bad job – just that it is a little pedestrian for him.
In fact, A Journal for Jordan just slightly has the vibe of a made for cable movie planned for The Hallmark Channel or Lifetime.
And yet, as I noted above, in the end it mostly works. The epiphany will legitimately give you a lump in the throat. Sometimes that is all a movie wants or needs to do.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 24, 2021.