The 1991 Academy Award winner for best foreign language film, JOURNEY OF HOPE is not as dull as best picture winner DANCES WITH WOLVES, but that's probably because it's not as long. Like the latter, it's competent though uninspired, piously liberal though pointedly apolitical, a movie
that is good for you rather than a good movie.
Based on a true story, the film follows the ill fortunes of Turkish farmer Haydar (Necmettin Cobanoglu), his wife Meryem (Nur Surer) and their son Mehmet Ali (Emin Sivas), who sell everything they own to buy travel tickets and forged papers before leaving home for Switzerland and a supposed
better life. Stopped at the border, they fall into the hands of unscrupulous smugglers who send them on a treacherous and illegal mountain route into Switzerland. Barely clinging to life during a fierce blizzard, they are finally rescued, though too late for one of them, by the same kindly Swiss
folks whose xenophobic immigration laws led the family to their desperate straits in the first place.
There's nothing particularly wrong with JOURNEY OF HOPE, but there's nothing particularly right with it either. As the trades would say, it's technically aces in all departments. It's well staged, tightly plotted, competently photographed and well acted. But so are most network movies of the
week, a genre into which JOURNEY could comfortably fit were it not for its subtitles and downbeat ending. That it bested such strikingly original films as JU DOU and THE NASTY GIRL for the Oscar says less about the film itself than about the Academy's historical preference for the banal over the
What keeps JOURNEY flat and uninvolving despite its obvious sincerity is that writer-director Xavier Koller condescendingly conceives his characters as superficially colorful ethnics rather than flesh-and-blood human beings. He never makes compellingly clear what drives Haydar and Meryem to risk
life, limb and family for a handful of promises. There is little sense of the desperation of their homeland or the hope offered at the end of their journey. If anything, their rural Turkish homeland seems rather pleasantly bucolic in contrast to the dreary greyness of the Swiss border. Through
much of the film, Koller instead focuses on the youngster, Mehmet Ali, who is at once oblivious to the dangers of the trip and open to the new sights, sounds and experiences flooding his senses.
Functioning on Mehmet's level, JOURNEY works well enough most of the time as a rambling juvenile road movie. Sivas is an engaging enough actor and Koller has a natural empathy for the kid's-eye point of view. But Koller's choice to downplay the adult point of view also deprives the story of any
real emotional depth or power. What could have been a searing, incisive drama dealing with the immigrant experience is reduced to a slick, sanitized heart-tugger barely memorable despite the grueling tale of an elemental struggle for survival at its core. (Violence.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1990
- Rating: NR
- Review: The 1991 Academy Award winner for best foreign language film, JOURNEY OF HOPE is not as dull as best picture winner DANCES WITH WOLVES, but that's probably because it's not as long. Like the latter, it's competent though uninspired, piously liberal though… (more)