In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “There’s a feeling of inevitable tragedy that makes Journey of Hope one of the most edge of my seat movies I have seen in a long, long time.”
The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again. But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
“That’s 4,500 Deutsche marks.”
What can you tell about a movie based on its title? I know exactly what I would have thought if I stumbled across one called Journey of Hope. I would have thought it was some cheap, made for TV melodrama, starring someone like Shelley Long, five years after she quit Cheers and her big screen career never took off. But I didn’t stumble across Journey of Hope. I found it on a list of every Oscar winner currently streaming on Netflix. And since I’m trying to watch more foreign language films, having access to an Oscar winner in the category is a good way of finding movies I know very little about, if anything. The good news is, Journey of Hope is no cheap, made for TV melodrama.
Struggling to put bread on the table for his wife and seven kids in Turkey, Haydar (Necmettin Cobanoflu) is determined to make a better life for them all. When he receives a postcard from a cousin who has emigrated to Switzerland, he decides that making the same journey is the solution. The only problem is, this isn’t an easy or cheap trip. It’s not strictly legal either. Like his cousin, Haydar will need to pay a small fortune to be illegally smuggled into the promised land.
It’s also too expensive to take the entire family, so Haydar’s plan is for himself, his wife and one son to go, leaving the rest of his children with his parents, until he can make enough money to send for them. His wife, Meryem (Nur Surer) is far from enthusiastic about the plan. But she eventually though reluctantly, agrees, and Haydar sells every possession he has, setting off with his wife and pre teen son, Mehmit Ali (Emin Sivas).
From the second it starts, Journey of Hope makes it obvious that this movie will be severely lacking in sunshine, lollypops and good times. Just a few opening scenes is more than enough to make it clear why Haydar is willing to try such a desperate and risky move. But it also makes it clear that his life is borderline bearable enough for his wife and parents to be justifiably sceptical. Being a little unsure of his actions as a viewer made me take a whole lot more notice of his wife’s objections and be a whole lot more aware of the risks, than if the movie had made it clear that moving was the only honourable option, regardless of the risk.
Journey of Hope makes Haydar’s efforts noble, but it also makes them a little selfish, which means it’s immediately more realistic and the stakes are then higher thanks to that realism. While obviously never foolproof, there are times when Haydar’s plan might just work. But there’s always enough in his way to make sure it never falls into movie plot convenience. It also helps that those moments of assurity are few and far between. Keeping his goal so difficult and unlikely is what keeps the story so compelling. There’s a feeling of inevitable tragedy that comes with that, that made Journey of Hope one of the most edge of my seat movies I have seen in a long, long time.