My son, Harvey, and I went to see the John Eldredge movie last night, A Story Worth Living. We were both really disappointed in the film and it seems like most people were as well. I wanted to share my thoughts on it and hopefully get some conversation going about what was missing from those of you who watched it.
A Story Worth Watching?
Firstly, I’m a big John Eldredge fan. I’ve read most of his books, and Wild at Heart was key for my growth as a man. I was excited to see what I thought was going to be a gritty adventure laced with lessons from one of the men I hold in high regard. However, what I got was something that felt like a white-washed, Christian outing. The film was built up to be this great motorcycle adventure fraught with perils and such. The things we expect from an adventure generally include physical exhaustion, testing of mental fortitude, hunger, thirst, pulling together to accomplish some goal, the overcoming of some significant obstacle, danger, etc. The result of such an adventure are not only stories, but also inside jokes (which the audience can share in), and personal insights and discoveries (which the audience can also relate to). I know Eldredge gets this, and this is what I expected. However, that is not what I got.
The cinematography was very impressive. It was easily the best draw of the film. Every frame was stunning and I was really inspired by the use of drones and the quality which small team of filmmakers can produce on a budget. That’s the sweet; here’s the sour. The greatest obstacle the men overcame was their own ability to ride a motorcycle and the fear of falling off of it. Here you have an affluent family, riding top-notch motos, suited up in layers of sponsored moto safety gear with plenty of food and water. Where’s the risk? Where’s the sense of danger? I see people cross the street in the city that take more risk. Would it have been a fun ride to go on? Absolutely. The views were stunning, the time together would have been memorable, but was it an adventure? Was it worth the creation of a movie? I don’t believe so.
Calling it Like I see It
Here’s another thing that I am hesitant to say but feel that I have to point out. There was a strong effeminacy about the whole group but particularly the young men in the film. It may be the “Colorado\Californian” soft-spokeness or the camera ready look they always had going on, but it seemed like these guys were really good at sharing their feelings and empathizing with each other — not that there is anything wrong with that — and not so good at adventuring. This works great if the film was supposed to be about their philosophical insight, but everyone showed up for a motorcycle adventure. That didn’t happen.
Case in point: the sheep dogs. At the end of the film the guys get together and talk about how great the adventure was. One of the harrowing moments was when they were going down a dirt road and these sheep decide to cross. A few sheep dogs (which look like fluffy, white labs) come down the hill and one comes out barking at the tires of one of the riders. To hear these guys describe it, they were being chased by a hell-hound. It really freaked them out. But they had layers of Kevlar protection from head to toe, riding on a 600lb, 800cc motorcycle…what’s a dog going to do? How many kids used to ride their bikes down a dirt road and have the neighbor’s dog come out and snarl and chase you? No protection, no engine, just pedaling like mad to outrun Cujo!
What Would Have Worked
At the end of the film they said they originally envisioned it being a series of shorts weaved with lessons to be released on their blog and those will be available starting in a week or so. I think that would have been just right, but as it was the movie was so built up to be the adventure it could not be. It got people out to the theatre, and probably made a good deal of money, but what has it done to the Eldredge brand?
Let’s be honest, any man would love to go on an 8 day motorcycle ride through Colorado. It would be physically tough and we would be worn out at the end of each day, especially if we aren’t used to that sort of thing. It’s the kind of break we need. I can absolutely relate to that. But, I don’t want to lower the bar on adventure just to suit the softness of modern men. This film would have worked better if it had been more honest as to what it actually was: time in nature, time away from the norm, time with your brothers and friends, and the occasional cigar. The movie was more like a Christian bachelor party than an adventure. It is a great example (and I mean this sincerely) of how kind, well-raised, Christian men can relate to each other. The lack of drama is a testimony to their worldview, but the lack of roughness is a detraction from the adventure we all seek.