THE JOURNEY IS THE DESTINATION: Uneven, Yet Inspiring Biopic

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. He was a champion of human rights and an artist, having kept numerous personal fine art journals documenting his travels to 42 countries. These would later be printed by his mother, Kathy Eldon – who founded the Creative Visions Foundation in honour of her son – and become international bestsellers.

Safari as a Way of Life

In the early 1990s, Eldon led a group of his closest friends on a safari across Africa, donating money and aiding refugee camps throughout Malawi. Some of the team members included Dan’s 15-year-old sister, Amy Eldon Turteltaub (played by Ella Purnell in the film), and 19-year-old Christopher Nolan assisting as a cameraman. The film briefly highlights this trip but its main focus is on Dan as an aspiring photojournalist during his time in famine-ridden and war-torn Somalia, where he would become Reuters’ youngest photojournalist and, sadly, where he was killed in 1993.

“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.” –Dan Eldon

THE JOURNEY IS THE DESTINATION: Uneven, Yet Inspiring Biopic
source: Creative Visions

The story of Dan Eldon (Ben Schnetzer) was never going to be easy to translate to 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 high school 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 color and life – evoking images of Dan’s journals – and director, Bronwen Hughes, just about manages to keep up with him on his travels. It’s an exciting watch but the latter (and much 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 (Hos Maina, Hansi Krauss, and Anthony Macharia) as they were stoned and beaten to death by a mob in Mogadishu.

Conclusion: The Journey Is the Destination

“The Journey Is the Destination” was one of Eldon’s many life mantras and his story never fails to inspire, nor be undeniably emotional. The cast is wonderful here too. Kelly Macdonald is a delight as Dan’s sort-of mentor who promptly recognizes his talent, and Maria Bello (as Dan’s mother, Kathy), while slightly strained in the beginning, shares touching scenes with Schnetzer as the film continues.

THE JOURNEY IS THE DESTINATION: Uneven, Yet Inspiring Biopic
source: Creative Visions

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.

Did you like The Journey Is the Destination? Were you inspired by Dan Eldon’s story? Be sure to leave us a comment in the section down below and share your thoughts!

The Journey Is the Destination is currently available to stream on Netflix, or to rent/buy on Amazon Prime. To learn more about Dan Eldon’s work and life, visit his official website.

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