The Journey Is the Destination

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Journey Is the Destination Movie Poster Image
Biopic of young photographer is violent and sad.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 123 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Portrays the savagery of war and political upheaval. Journalists are shown to be valiant warriors themselves. Honors its real-life subject for his passion and commitment to the besieged populations in war-torn cities. A cautionary tale about how good intentions may lead to tragic consequences. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Based on true incidents. The central character, a multitalented artist, is idealistic, courageous, determined, and thoughtful. However, a degree of naivete dooms his mission. In spite of the danger, the journalists (both male and female) depicted are committed to record events and reveal the outrages inflicted on the innocent. Ethnic diversity. 

Violence

Violent war footage, including many visuals of the aftermath of massacres: bodies dead, bleeding, skinned, burned. A soldier is slashed by a sword. Explosions, populations under fire from helicopters. Civilians (including children) run for their lives. Actual photographs of children who died of starvation. Journalists are ambushed by forces of a warlord. Mob violence; important characters are stoned and beaten. Character reveals that she was a victim of sexual mutilation as a child. 

Sex

Sensual dancing. Kissing, embracing, flirting. 

Language

Occasional profanity includes "s--t," "f--k," "p---y," "screwed," "Jesus." 

Consumerism

Reuters news service is integral part of the story.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and some drunkenness among colleagues in some scenes. Party drinking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Journey Is the Destination is a docudrama about Daniel Eldon, a news photographer and humanitarian who was killed in Somalia in 1993, at the age of 22. A talented idealist, Eldon committed himself to "changing the world" by advocating for the people of Africa under fire and facing poverty, as well as by using his photographs to make countless others aware of their plight. In addition to a number of tragic deaths in the movie, there are many scenes that show the horrors of war: civilians under fire, explosions, armed combat, and many shots of the dead -- victims of massacres who have been burned, skinned, and mutilated. Photos also show the emaciated bodies of children who died of starvation. Characters swear (e.g., "s--t," "f--k," "p---y") and are shown drinking and getting drunk. Spoiler alert: A young woman refers to her sexual mutilation as a child. Disturbing and graphically violent, this movie is not for kids. 

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What's the story?

THE JOURNEY IS THE DESTINATION is the true-life story of Daniel Eldon (Ben Schnetzer). Born to white, European parents, Eldon was raised in Kenya and grew up with an affinity and compassion for the African people. Multitalented and adventurous, he worked as a journalist, leaving behind an impressive collection of scrapbooks with photos, cartoons, collages, and writings about his experiences, as well as the impressive photographs he took while actively working for Reuters news service (the youngest member of a wartime team in the organization's history). Though his life was shortened by violence, it was a life of adventure, spirit, and accomplishment. Director Bronwen Hughes follows Eldon over the years from 1988 to 1993. During that time, he organized other young people to deliver resources to Africa's poor, fell in love with a beautiful African woman, and risked his life while in the employ of Reuters to make the world aware of the horrors visited upon the Somalian people by civil strife, vicious warlords, and the well-meaning but ineffectual efforts of the United States.

Is it any good?

Meant to inspire, and to acquaint audiences with an accomplished artist and compassionate citizen of the world, the film tells a true story, but without the depth and grit that would make it special. The Journey Is the Destination is a colorful portrait of idealism and talent without restraint, and a poignant tribute to Daniel Eldon, a young man who made the most of his many gifts. But, despite the fine performances and technical proficiency, the film doesn't have the impact the filmmakers must have hoped for. The origin and facts about the Somalian conflict are given short shrift. It's clear that Daniel was driven, but why? Quotes from his writing reveal the conclusions he's drawn from his experiences, but not how he came to those conclusions. Daniel's journey begins with his big heart, his passion for adventure, and an idealistic, out-sized view of what he might accomplish. Sadly, those very qualities contributed to his tragic end. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the nature of the violence in The Journey Is the Destination. Since the movie is based on true events, how does your response differ from your response to fictional murder and mayhem? 

  • Were you aware of the Somalian conflict that's at the heart of this movie? What is the movie's attitude about American involvement at that time? Where could you go to find the full story of the United States' impact on that war? 

  • Often movies about people of color (e.g., in Africa, in the American South) use a white hero as the film's protagonist. What do you think is the rationale for that filmmaking choice? Do you agree with it? Why or why not?

  • How does this film illustrate the importance of communication, teamwork, and courage?

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