Dir.: Joshua Benson; Cast: Jeff Worden, Rachel Colwell, Julie Oliver-Touchstone, Rebeka Stein, Lou Llobell, Emerald Clarke; USA 2012, 96 min.
First time filmmaker Joshua Benson has adapted George Killock’s short story about a visit to the West of America which turns into a homecoming – of sorts. Will (Worden) has it made. Now a successful architect in London he loves his work and the glittering city buildings, but puts his subordinates down, and neglects his girlfriend Claire (Llobell).
Then comes a phone call from the American West – South Dakota border with Wyoming, to be precise – his sister Jeannie( Billy for short) informing him about the death of his estranged mother. Will jets immediately over the pond, only to be told by Billy that the funeral has already taken place. She has a task for him: to sprinkle their mother’s ashes on the mountains near the family home where their sister Kay (Oliver-Touchstone) still lives.
This is not a close family – for an unnamed reasons – so Will is reluctant to fill the requested task but does so in order to put the past behind him. What follows involves a series of minor disasters with people he meets on the way: A blonde All-American-Beauty and a hitch-hiker Alva (Colwell) who is building oil rigs with her brother, Will’s mood deteriorating rapidly until he finally leaves his car behind and continues his odyssey, travelling light with a back bag.
As an idea, the feature works beautifully, all Wenders and “Weltschmerz”. But in reality there are too many questions left unanswered: Will’s family has fallen out in a big way, but we never find out why. The Wild West which Will re-visits is just a fata-morgana, as is the London world of sky-scrapers, introduced with a heavy Beethoven score. Everything Will falls for is a product of his longing for the past. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. What gradually emerges is Will’s inability to be a team player: he has to have the leading role – no matter which country. His so-called feelings are just projections of something he will never really possess: he is a runner by nature. Worden leads an impressive cast and DoP’s Alex Grigora’s panoramic images of the West are equally beguiling. But Benson’s script is like a first draft, ideas held together by excellent production values. AS
THE PILGRIM is available to rent or own on North American digital HD internet and satellite platforms on March 14, 2023 through Freestyle Digital Media