I'll Push You: A Real-Life Inspiration

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
I'll Push You: A Real-Life Inspiration Movie Poster Image
Touching friendship docu is full of positive messages.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 100 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's not only OK to ask for help, but allowing someone to help you often gives them joy. Great example of what love looks like in the context of friendship. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Excellent role models. Justin is confined to a wheelchair due to a debilitating disease, but he's got an upbeat, cheery, positive attitude. When Patrick commits to something, he's all in and driven to do it right. Ted is selfless, dedicating his life to being there for others when they need someone the most. The pilgrims they meet along the way contribute to the journey, and their positive characteristics are named. The trio demonstrate teamwork, perseverance, gratitude, humility, courage, and empathy. Male characters communicate their feelings and even tear up when discussing their friendship.

Violence

Mention of past suicidal ideation with a positive resolution.

Sex

One joke about abstinence. The men kiss their wives and frequently talk about their love and appreciation for them. A disabled man's rear end is accidentally exposed a couple of times, which he jokes about.

Language

Infrequent swearing includes "ass," "damn," "s--t," and "stupid" in reference to a choice.

Consumerism

Columbia brand shirts are worn throughout.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I'll Push You: A Real-Life Inspiration -- a documentary about two friends, one in a wheelchair, who go on a 34-day, 500-mile journey -- lives up to its title. It's hard to think of a  better film in terms of demonstrating what real love in the context of friendship looks like. It also clearly shows how helping others brings joy to the giver. The two central men in the film, best friends since childhood, are exemplary. Patrick Gray is the embodiment of drive, dedication, and courage -- but he still finds personal growth on the journey. Justin Skeesuck has a disease that's making his body deteriorate quickly, but he's full of mirth, looking at what life has to offer instead of what's been denied to him. While this story is likely to most appeal to adults who will appreciate its messages of strength, endurance, self-sacrifice, and brotherly love, it's a worthy watch for tweens and up. Iffy content is minimal. When he's transferred in and out of his chair, Skeesuck's rear end is exposed a couple of times, and there's a joke about abstinence. Occasional cursing includes "ass" and "s--t," and there's mention of past suicidal ideation, with a positive resolution.

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What's the story?

In I'LL PUSH YOU: A REAL-LIFE INSPIRATION, lifelong best friends Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck decide to make the annual El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage together. The catch? Justin is in a wheelchair, and Patrick will push him on the 34-day, 500-mile journey across mountainous, rough, muddy terrain.

Is it any good?

This story about Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck's friendship may be the one of the greatest love stories ever told -- or at least the most aspirational. They've been best buddies since they were babies, and they prove quite literally that they'd go to the ends of the Earth for each other. When Justin gets the spark of an idea to cross Europe as part of the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage -- something he'd never heard about before seeing a PBS special -- he pitches it to Patrick, who automatically offers, "I'll push you." It takes some time for the magnitude of what Patric has committed to to set in: He'll be serving as a pack mule, logistics wrangler, mechanic, and nurse. Viewers may find themselves agape at Justin's big ask, debating internally whether they'd make such a request of their loved ones -- and if they did, whether their friends would agree or turn away. Or, if they were in Patrick's shoes, would they so selflessly offer to help? 

But the beauty of I'll Push You -- one of the many beauties, really -- is that it provides some answers to these questions. Justin shares his feelings about being in a wheelchair, his internal struggle about being "a burden," and the invaluable lessons he's only learned because of his disease. And while Patrick may seem like a saint in every way, he reveals his imperfections and shares the revelations that have only come to him because of this specific experience. Given that this is Chris Patrick and Terry Parish's one and only film to date, and they took on every role -- sound, camera, editing, and directing -- perhaps we can forgive the lack of story structure. In fact, despite the lack of storytelling sophistication, it's the rarities that this film offers that makes it special. It's all too rare to hear men sharing raw, authentic emotions or to get an up-close look at how deeply male friendships can operate. It's even more rare to see a film that demonstrates how service can be spiritually rewarding. And a story revolving around a man with a disability is the most extraordinary of all. It's all wrapped up in a travelogue that takes viewers to the nooks and crannies of gorgeous France and Spain. Frankly, that makes this small, heartwarming doc a unicorn: If you don't see it, does such a marvel exist?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the disabled tend to be portrayed in the media. How does I'll Push You differ? Did it alter your point of view? Why are inclusiveness and representation in the media important?

  • How was perseverance essential to the pilgrimage succeeding? What did Patrick learn about the importance of teamwork

  • How does Justin express gratitude and humility? Why are these important character strengths? 

  • What's the film's takeaway? Are you inspired?

Movie details

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