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Thoughts on John Eldredge’s Movie: A Story Worth Living

Posted in - Character & Movies on May 20th 2016 6 s779515250357753838_p108_i22_w640

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?

Final Thoughts

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.

– Yarbrough

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  • Davy Buck

    Thanks for your honest review. Though critical, you did it with class. I’m 58 years old and owned a 400 Yamaha Enduro MC when I was in my early 20’s. Now there’s an adventure bike! It was capable of highway riding, but completely at home off road as well. That kind of bike ride might have made a better “adventure.” And you’re right, riding my banana seat bike with no shirt and shoes when I was 10 was more risky than what these fellas did.

    That being said, I can also understand why John wanted to be “safe” on the ride with the youngsters. I just bought my 7 year-old granddaughter a bicycle helmet – something I would have been ashamed to wear as a kid.

    http://ridermagazine.com/2010/02/18/retrospective-yamaha-dt400-enduro-1975-1979/

    • Thanks, Davy! And yes, I also understand being on the safe side. Sweet looking bike! Love that color.

  • Chuck Moore

    I went. I loved the cinematography. I’d totally do a trip myself, inexperience and all. That’s why I rent surfboards on vacation, and go trail running, and try climbing, and do OCR’s. I wasn’t looking for a Revenant, but a grand story and adventure A Story was not. As a matter of fact, the best story of the night for me was from a friend who carpooled there with me and a harrowing backcountry backpacking experience.

    Summed well here: But, I don’t want to lower the bar on adventure just to suit the softness of modern men.

  • I did not get to see the movie – but a female friend of mine did. Afterwards, she told me that the movie touched on issues that she is working through in her own life. For her, that was a good thing.

    I’m a middle-aged man and know this is geared towards young men, but I still hope to see it sometime – whether in short segments or if it becomes available in DVD format.

    Thank you for your honesty in sharing this review.