A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Journal for Jordan is director Denzel Washington's adaptation of former New York Times editor Dana Canedy's (Chanté Adams) memoir. It tells the story of her late partner, U.S. Army Sgt. Charles King (Michael B. Jordan), who, while deployed post-9/11, wrote in a special journal for their unborn and then-baby son, Jordan. Expect depictions of military violence -- an explosion kills Charles and severely injures others in his unit -- as well as footage from 9/11 of the planes hitting the Twin Towers. There are also several scenes of Dana and Charles flirting, kissing, and eventually making love (his bare butt and both of their bare shoulders and sides are visible). While the film's director and leads are Black, Dana's life centers around White best friends, and the issue of colorism is explored: Light-skinned Jordan's Blackness is disputed (or ridiculed) by classmates. Occasional strong language includes "s--t," "bitch," "wigger," and more. Families can discuss the importance of communication, empathy, and perseverance, the enduring legacy of lost loved ones, and how letters and journals can keep a person's beliefs alive.
- Parents say
- Kids say
There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
What's the story?
Based on Dana Canedy's memoir, A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN tells the story of how, through her military father, New York Times reporter Dana (Chanté Adams) met Sergeant Charles King (Michael B. Jordan), a man who became the greatest love -- and loss -- of her life. What's clear from early on in the film, which was directed by Denzel Washington, is that Charles and Dana will eventually have a baby boy named Jordan, and that Charles will die in combat -- but not before writing the titular journal for his baby son. The movie chronicles the couple's love story, from their early flirting and long-distance relationship to his deployment after Sept. 11, as well as Dana's life with a then-tween Jordan after Charles' death.
Is it any good?
Washington's adaptation boasts talented actors but lacks a nuanced script and the on-screen chemistry necessary to elevate the drama beyond the sentimental. Since his directorial debut, Antwone Fisher, the actor-turned-director has consistently taken his time between projects; usually the result is a highly personal and evocative film, like the excellent stage-to-screen adaptation of Fences, in which he also starred. So it's disappointing that this, his fourth feature film (and third adaptation) misses the mark. It's not that it's bad -- because it's never a waste to see Jordan act in any film role -- but it's uneven, oddly paced, and feels more like a predictably maudlin Lifetime drama than an effective narrative film. Part of the problem is the dialogue and the forced, almost sitcom-ish way that Dana interacts with her circle of friends (which, oddly, lacks one Black or Brown person). The bantering friends, who wax poetic about Charles' body, aren't developed enough to also be the support network she needs after he dies. And there are several unresolved issues that the script introduces but never develops (like Charles' daughter from a previous marriage or Dana's issues with her father's infidelity).
Another problem is that, despite their individual appeal, there's not a lot of romantic chemistry between Adams and Jordan. What passes a chemistry test can be subjective to the viewer, but here it just doesn't burn up the screen. It's clear that this is a beautiful real-life story of a couple's love and what an officer left behind for his partner and son to treasure long after his death. That makes the idea of reading the book appealing, to dig deeper into the events that inspired the movie. If anything, this is a tale that should be explored as a documentary to celebrate Canedy and King's love -- and his legacy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in A Journal for Jordan. Is it necessary to the storyline? How is losing a loved one to military violence different than criminal violence?
What makes Dana and Charles' romantic relationship special? What is it about unexpected couples that's so compelling to viewers and readers? Does knowing this story is based on real events affect your perspective?
What lessons does Jordan learn from his father's journal? Why are the character strengths described in the letters important?
- In theaters: December 25, 2021
- Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Chanté Adams
- Director: Denzel Washington
- Studios: Sony Pictures Entertainment, Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 131 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexual content, partial nudity, drug use and language
- Last updated: January 26, 2022
Our editors recommend
For kids who love dramas
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch