[Screen It]


(2021) (Michael B. Jordan, Chante Adams) (PG-13)

Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

Drama: A widow begins writing a journal for her son including about his late father who wrote his own words of wisdom to their son before his death.

It's 2007 and Dana Canedy (CHANTE ADAMS) is still grieving over the combat death of her husband, 1st Sergeant Charles Monroe King (MICHAEL B. JORDAN), in Iraq the year before. It's then that she dreams of him leaning in close and whispering about their infant son, "Tell him everything." As a result, she starts writing a journal for little Jordan, much as his father did for him before his untimely death.

It's not until Jordan (JALON CHRISTIAN) is a teenager that he really learns about his father, and during those intervening years, we see flashbacks to when Dana and Charles first met, fell in love, and then had to contend with his constant deployments overseas. Those moments and other material end up being the words of wisdom that the father leaves for his son.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10

Today's kids don't know how lucky they have it compared to when I was growing up. Not only do they have the world and all of its information and opportunities literally at their fingertips, but their lives have most likely been chronicled on video for them to see in the years and decades to come. Aside from a few photos, there's next to nothing about my childhood left beyond fading memories, and there's certainly no recorded words of wisdom from my dad as many fathers are providing for their kids in these modern times.

Of course, my dad was of the "greatest generation" of WWII vets who never talked about their past or offered any pearls for one to follow or hang on, so it's doubtful had the technology existed back in the day that he would have used it. Granted, pen and paper did, but that just wasn't the style of men back then.

Thus, I sort of had "what if" moments of wonder and sadness while watching "A Journal for Jordan" where a boy born in 2006 not only had words of wisdom written to him by his dad who he never knew, but also his mom who ended up raising him following his father's combat death in Iraq just months after he was born.

The title comes from what his mom, Pulitzer Prize-winner and New York Times senior editor Dana Canedy, wrote to him the year after an IED took the life of 1st Sergeant Charles Monroe King. The film -- directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by Virgil Williams -- begins in 2007 where Dana (Chante Adams) is trying to hold it together as a newly widowed and single mom holding down a job and raising her boy. In a moment that briefly gives the flick a supernatural vibe (with another one, later on, involving balloons that does the same), Dana imagines Charles (Michael B. Jordan) leaning in close and whispering for her to tell Jordan everything.

She then starts writing and we're whisked back a decade earlier where Dana and Charles meet at her parent's house, what with her dad having been Charles' drill sergeant years before. A romance then ensues, followed by a marriage, pregnancy, and deployment overseas following 9/11, providing various ups and downs and dramatic material to propel the story forward.

By its nature, the film feels somewhat choppy and episodic, resulting in sudden changes and ranges of emotion, especially on Dana's part that feel jarring. But things pick up and gain their true emotional grounding when Jordan (Jalon Christian) is now a teenager and wants to know more about his father and finally is handed his wartime, "how to be a good person" journal. All of which wraps up with an emotionally charged finale that packs quite the wallop, even when we know how things are going to play out from the get-go.

And with and for that, the film overcomes some of its earlier issues and earns a passing grade. But be forewarned that it could trigger some people who've lost a parent and have those final words of wisdom -- or wish they did. "A Journal for Jordan" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Reviewed December 15, 2021 / Posted December 25, 2021

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