The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry | Picturehouse Recommends

Not only does the film star the best of British talent, it also celebrates the landscape and the community spirit that feels especially important to audiences now.

Anna Smith

13 Apr 23

Hettie Macdonald

Release Date
28 April

Jim Broadbent, Penelope Wilton, Linda Bassett


Running Time
108 mins

Rachel Joyce's best-selling novel hits the big screen in this inspiring journey of healing and forgiveness. Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent stars as the eponymous protagonist Harold Fry, who finds out that his old friend Queenie is dying.

In an unusually impetuous moment, he decides to walk all the way to her hospice to see her. His journey takes him about 500 miles away across the UK, and he has a series of touching and inspiring adventures along the way. 

It's a quintessentially British story that has moved millions of readers and looks set to do the same on the big screen. Joyce, who wrote the book and won the 2012 UK National Book Award for the New Writer of the Year, also wrote the screenplay.

Not only does the film star the best of British talent, it also celebrates the landscape and the community spirit that feels especially important to audiences now. Harold experiences a great deal of kindness on his journey, and his is also a story of rediscovery and transformation. It's a timely reminder that later life can offer pleasant surprises and new experiences. 

Joining the always brilliant Jim Broadbent in the central cast is Penelope Wilton as Harold's wife Maureen, who feels distant from her husband because of the absence of their son, a fact that looms over the couple, unspoken.

Directed by Normal People's Hettie Macdonald, the film also stars Linda Bassett (East Is East, Calendar Girls) as Queenie, and rising star Earl Cave as Harold's son David. 

Although films are rarely shot in chronological sequence, Harold Fry was, mirroring Harold's journey across England, from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed. It's a fact that's sure to add authenticity to the film, and take the audience on a journey along with its hero.

Director Macdonald recalls, "Jim really was weathered, he really was out there walking. It fed into his performance in such a beautiful way."

As readers will know, the book is a moving and meaningful read, and the film promises to be just as thought-provoking, exploring relatable issues such as grief, loss, guilt and healing, as well as generosity and happiness.

Macdonald says, "There's something so universal and quite big at the heart of it, and I find Harold such an extraordinary hero. In bravely stepping out into the unknown he shows how it's possible, by taking a leap of faith, to heal."

Speaking of adapting the book for the screen, she says, "Because much of the story is happening inside Harold's head, the challenge of Harold Fry is to articulate what is unfolding without it being written on a page. When I was first sent the script, what struck me was the powerful opportunity for visual storytelling. Harold holds a great deal of inner turmoil and conflict, but his journey is emotional, even poetic." 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry seems set to be a winner for anyone looking to go on an uplifting cinematic journey.

Fans of the novel will be excited to see the book come to life, while those new to the story will enjoy being taken on the life-affirming ride along with its loveable and unlikely hero.   Anna Smith

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry is in cinemas from 28 April  Book Now