MPAA Rating: Not rated at the time of this review
USCCB Rating: Not rated at the time of this review
Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 reels
The Journey is not so much a movie as an experience. At times, the film is a documentary, then a concert, occasionally a music video, and yet always a sort of religious pilgrimage. There is a story that unfolds in something of a plot, but this is just the stage for an expression of faith and how that faith is lived in a broken world.
It won’t satisfy the moviegoer who demands a three-act narrative, but provides beautiful devotion to anyone seeking inspiration.
Andrea Bocelli is a world-famous tenor, but prior to this film I knew very little about him. Journey apparently assumes that the audience is familiar with Bocelli, and gives almost no biographic details of the singer. Bocelli announces at the beginning that he will be doing part of a traditional Catholic pilgrimage called the Via Francigena, riding on horseback for 200 miles across Italy, ending in Rome.
Along the way, he meets a variety of friends and colleagues, all talented singers and musicians in their own right, including Michael W. Smith, Tori Kelly, 2Cellos, and others. These artists engage Bocelli in a dialogue about faith, often ending in song. The pacing is slow and deliberate, giving time not only for the subjects to reflect on the spiritual life, but the audience as well.
The spirituality advanced by Bocelli is somewhere between explicitly theistic and implicitly Catholic. This is certainly not a pseudo-pagan exploration of the ego dressed up as faith. God and sin are real, thus also grace and forgiveness. Jesus is not mentioned often, but Catholic churches and imagery abound. The songs all deal with Christian themes to some degree. My personal favorite was Taya Smith’s performance of her signature song “Oceans” (my choice for the greatest song ever composed). In almost every performance, Bocelli joins as backup, adding beautiful layers to an already amazing rendition.
For Bocelli, the most tangible expression of faith is family. His wife accompanies him on the journey, frequently providing insights into their relationship. The film’s final act begins with “the most important accomplishments” of Bocelli’s life, a meeting with his children. He shares a small song with his daughter and his son reads a poem. The Journey ends with Bocelli kneeling in prayer before the tabernacle, then performing his last song in the film, a rendition of “Amazing Grace” with every artist throughout the film. It’s a fantastic representation of the beatific vision, where all men from all ages and cultures join in praise of Christ’s redemption.
One of Bocelli’s most famous attributes, which is never mentioned, is his vision. Or, rather, his lack of vision. Born with severe glaucoma, he was completely blind by twelve. His mother rejected her doctor’s advice for an abortion. Like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, this heightened his audible sense and helped move him into the music industry. His life thus echoes the story of the man born blind (John 9), who was rejected by the elites but embraced by Jesus.
Bocelli may not experience the electro-magnetic spectrum, but is able to fully perceive the world, including the truths of God, through song. He then can more effectively share these visions through his own music. Thus, the works of God “might be displayed through him.”
The Journey may not be traditional popcorn and Saturday night recreation, but it well suited for the end of Lent and Holy Week. The film, presented by Fathom Events, will be in theaters for one week, April 2nd through April 9th (due to popular demand, the film will now remain in theaters nationwide through Easter Sunday, April 9, and future dates may be added at select locations).
Bocelli, through his music and reflections, invites viewers to examine their own spiritual journeys and to express thanks for all those who have helped them along the way. I was left not only with the gift of music but a very deep gratitude for the One who “saved a wretch like me.”
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I recall seeing Bocelli for the very first time on a PBS station fundraiser. I was astonished and enthralled by his voice. That he was blind added to the amazement. What a fabulous talent he is. Just amazing. Thankfully his parents refused the suggestion to abort, the world would have been a much poorer place. I have recently begun to watch short term released films like this. Most if not all are spiritually uplifting. Generally you need to buy advance seating at a web site such as Fathom Events. I saw the beginning episodes of this season’s The Chosen this way. Just a few days ago I went to see the movie Santiago,( a one day only release) about the pilgrimage in Spain to the church where the Apostle St. James is buried. A very interesting experience. These kinds of films are a wonderful alternative to the usual Hollywood garbage and well worth supporting.
Novello was born with sight. He lost his vision later.
how does just one person watch this event via YouTube/online?
Can’t it be put in movie theaters? some woldn’t go, but there are a lot of people who would to make it pay for puttine it on.