The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: On the red carpet with Jim Broadbent, Penelope Wilton and Rachel Joyce
From the opening scenes of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, you might be lulled into expecting a tale brimming with nostalgic and lighthearted reflections on seeing contemporary Britain through the eyes of an elderly couple. But audiences will quickly realise they are in a rather different register of story: the emotional journey through the past travelled by Harold Fry and his wife, Maureen, as Fry physically journeys across the land to visit his dying friend, Queenie, takes us to some unexpectedly dark and challenging places. Jim Broadbent and Penelope Wilton fit the characters with perfection, our familiarity with these veteran British actors perhaps further adding to the sense that we know what we’re watching before the rug is pulled from beneath our feet. The English landscape is stunningly captured, as are the nuanced sentiments of these characters, whose story, while heart-wrenching, is ultimately an uplifting one, highlighting the importance of human connection.
The Upcoming spent a lovely evening with the cast and crew at the Ham Yard Hotel for the film’s premiere. It was an honour to speak with Broadbent, who revealed what drew him to the character and the emotional journey undertaken. The actor, who had previously narrated the audiobook, discussed his familiarity with the story and his longstanding connection to the author. He also delved into the film’s exploration of grief, personal growth and the power of human connection, as well as the challenges and highlights of shooting in various locations across the UK. He further shared insights on the dark moments in the story and the uplifting messages it carries, such as the importance of communication and how it’s never too late to confront one’s past. The production also serves as a celebration of the UK, showcasing its diverse landscapes and the people who make up modern Britain. In addition, Broadbent talked about his approach to selecting roles, prioritising well-written scripts and unique opportunities, while also sharing some anecdotes from his time on-set.
Initially unfamiliar with the novel, Wilton told us she found the script to be strong and was captivated by the story of Harold and Maureen’s emotional journeys. She describes her character as a woman who has had a difficult life, unable to let go of past pain, and how she must face her fears and find the bravery to move forward. The actress praised her co-star and their similar working styles. Wilton also highlighted the importance of addressing mental health and the impact of finding support from others. As for her future roles, the accomplished actress reveals she will be working in theatre next, continually seeking interesting and challenging roles to take on.
Writer Rachel Joyce discussed her novel and screenplay for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, giving us a glimpse into the incredible story, which follows Harold Fry’s spontaneous decision to walk the length of the country to save a dying friend, while his wife embarks on her own journey within their home’s four walls. Joyce shared her emotions upon seeing acting legends Wilson and Broadbent bring her story to life, calling it the “greatest gift” a writer can receive. The screenwriter highlighted the power of the written word, as well as the additional layers brought to the story through stunning visuals and Broadbent’s subtle, emotive performance. For her, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a love story not just about a marriage, but also about connecting with the land and other people.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is released nationwide on 28th April 2023.
Watch the trailer for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry here: