Film Review: ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’

Variety | 4/18/2019 | Courtney Howard
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There’s a reason why John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” has stood the test of time: The author’s rich tale of an everyman’s extraordinary journey to find faith is a resonant reminder for believers to never stray from “the straight and narrow” — a message that’s evident from the very first moments of writer-director Robert Fernandez’s animated adaptation of the beloved novel.

Though this relatively low-budget retelling is hampered by its limited production values (it was partly funded by Kickstarter campaign), the execution is strong enough to serve as a previs run-through for a grander scale, live-action feature — the likes of which have never been offered to audiences, despite a flourishing faith-based market. Fernandez’s first feature, screening in the lead-up to Easter via Fathom Events nationwide on April 18 and 20, plays like a cinematic Cliff’s Notes for kids, even as it retains the heart and drama of the original novel.

Years - City - Destruction - Citizens - Resort

For many years, the city of Destruction has been left to rot, while its citizens resort to perpetual hard labor to survive. They’re micro-managed by disciplinary supervisors, descendants of an evil ruler who discouraged free thinking, dreamers, and personal beliefs. The claustrophobic atmosphere is as stifling as the oppressive rule. But one of their dutiful workers, a man by the name of Faithful Pathfinder, turns up missing, leaving behind visionary sketches of a mythical, gilded place called “Celestial City.” The finding irrevocably upends their world.

Another ordinary man, Christian Pilgrim (Ben Price), unearths Faithful Pathfinder’s contraband journal teaching about kindness, injustice, and impending doom caused by war. After his eyes are metaphorically opened, these lessons weigh on him, and his existential panic physically manifests as a shell-like backpack that grows larger each day. His only option to rid himself of this load is to leave his doubting family and set out on...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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