A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN is directed by Denzel Washington. It stars Michael B. Jordan and Chante Adams. The film is based on the true story as told in Dana Canedy’s memoirs.
When Charles Monroe King, a Sergeant in the United States Army, is killed in action, the mother of his baby, Dana Canedy, is left a single mother, struggling between raising her child and her career as a reporter with The New York Times. As she shares a journal with her young son, she flashes back to how she and the boy’s father first met, recalling positive memories and the hurdles they had to overcome on two completely different career paths, as she strives to create a positive image of her son’s father for him in an ever-changing world.
Stories of how military service and the tragedies often associated with them impact people and their families are nothing new; the service and sacrifices of these men and women who defend our freedom in the United States Armed Forces should absolutely be honored. And while A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN is not a perfect film, it manages to get its message across without being too preachy or generic, which is quite an accomplishment for a movie such as this, in a genre that’s been largely done to death. Despite a sloppy narrative structure in places, it’s a surprisingly good film overall thanks to the performances of its leads and the supporting cast members.
I’ll get the bad part out of the way first – A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN opts for a non-chronological staggered narrative, and this proves to be the movie’s biggest problem. Chante Adams’ appearance pretty much stays the same throughout the film, so I had a difficult time telling what “timeline” I was in at certain given moments throughout the film. I haven’t read the original memoir on which the film is based, so I can’t say if the book does something similar. Either way, it does tend to weigh the movie down at times, and the 130-minute running time does feel excessive at times, particularly with the jumping back and forth between past and present.
Fortunately, A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN gets by on the strength of its leads. Michael B. Jordan has become one of Hollywood’s top leading men in recent years, able to adapt to any role and make it his own, entertaining the audience all the while. He makes the portrayal of this serviceman who was lost before his time authentic and relatable, never at any point feeling like a caricature, parody, or cliche. His chemistry with co-star Chante Adams truly makes the story, and these two are absolutely believable as a couple who wants to be together despite different career paths that threaten to tear them apart.
I’m pleased to say that despite the long running time, A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN isn’t boring. We quickly become involved as an audience with the stories of this couple and the child they bring into this world. It’s not a perfect story, but I’m at least pleased to say it’s relatable and it manages to do just enough to stand out from the legions of other tales about how family life can be impacted by service in the Armed Forces. And that unto itself is an accomplishment.
A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN isn’t by any means one of the best movies I’ve seen in 2021, but it’s still a surprisingly authentic true-to-life story brought to life by one of Hollywood’s top actors today, managing to combine drama, humor, and suspense expertly, due in no small part to the talents of Denzel Washington in the director’s chair, who proves to be just as strong a presence behind the camera as in front of it. If you seek a good true-to-life story about how military families are impacted by loss, A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN does its job well enough. Recommended.