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A Journal for Jordan is Ultra-Respectful of Its Romance and Drama

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Call it a product of divisive social and political times, but it seems like the term “respectful” feels unfashionable at the moment. Entertainment is trending towards objectives where big statements are necessary to get noticed or applauded. Everything either needs to start as or become some kind of firebrand. Meaningfulness that comes from simple or plain roots gets devalued or lost for not being loud enough, and that’s a shame. It is because of such a mannerly tone that Denzel Washington’s newest directorial effort A Journal for Jordan deserves admiration.

Respectfulness is crucial. For all intents and purposes in telling the memoir of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dana Canedy, Washington has a movie that encircles patriotism, duty, the War on Terror, gender politics, Black love, colorism, the plight of military spouses, substitute fatherhood, legacies, and more. Each is treated in an ultra-respectful fashion. Even with heavy emotions in play, none of those issues are shouted at with either favoritism or admonishment. Some folks are likely going to wish some of them should be addressed with a judgmental volume or flag-planting stance, but then they wouldn’t be matching this movie’s graciousness. In standing firm as it does, there’s a heap of bravery across many people and places to be found in A Journal for Jordan. 

A soldier holds up his baby next to his mother
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

The film introduces Dana, played by Chante Adams of The Photograph, as a senior editor at The New York Times who still has to fight for full credit and solo workplace respect as a woman, all while managing to be a single mother pumping breast milk during break time in her office. She’s an isolated widower with an empty half of the bed next to her and a baby son named Jordan who is not going to know who his father was. In her sleepless hours over several years, Dana seeks to write out her recollected memories in essay form.

This is where A Journal For Jordan becomes as romantic as it is respectful. Dana’s love story begins in 1998 when she met Army 1st Sergeant Charles Monroe King, played by Michael B. Jordan, through a minor bit of matchmaking orchestrated by her Army veteran father and stalwart mother (TV veterans Robert Wisdom and Tamara Tunie). Reflecting on her own parents’ flawed marital history, Dana is hesitant with the newly divorced Charles and the two spend months courting in a long-distance and chaste fashion. Soon enough, his chivalry yields a winning relationship of passion and devotion until their togetherness is hindered by his soldierly duties after the events of 9/11 and the ensuing War on Terror.

A woman and a man site together on a park bench.
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

As a fit man in uniform, Michael B. Jordan looks like an absolute dreamboat in this movie. It would have been very easy for Denzel Washington to levy his top-billed star’s volcanic screen presence set to Marcelo Zarvos’s poignant score into something hot-and-heavy that disarms any and all female defenses instantly. Instead, Michael’s character constantly puts courtesy first that is greatly appreciated by Chante’s Dana. The patience is worthwhile and pays off with plenty of sexy fire, but not before, once again, the respect side is earned. Show this romance to teens as an exemplar of romantic patience.

Before Charles deploys and leaves his pregnant wife, Dana presents him a diary of writing prompts called “A Father’s Legacy.” What begins as a light outlet to calm battlefield anxiety and offer a reminder of home for Charles grows to become an eager and purposeful testament to his future son on how to be a man in case he never comes home. In writing her account, Dana too is creating a testament and has mined his recovered journal as an incorporated second viewpoint. She awaits the day Jordan is old enough to read it all himself. That day comes in 2018 when he’s a bullied light-skinned teen (Jalon Christian of the upcoming Black Adam) that could use some male influence.

A woman leans over to kiss a man across a counter.
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Chante Adams had the most difficult lover’s role as a supporting second in The Photograph nearly two years ago and advances to this leading role. Getting swooned by the pecs and buttocks of Michael B. Jordan is the easiest part of her acting job. She’s got more than that going and Washington puts her first. Adams asserts herself exceptionally through the ways her character overcomes her stresses and losses through the happy years and the sorrowful ones. How Dana dictates the difficulties of the movie’s moments and perilous issues with composure is the true center that guides A Journal for Jordan. Keep an eye on this emerging talent.

Out of all the reverential measures of Denzel Washington’s movie, the central act of documentation is the most valuable substance. The combined effort of Dana and Charles to guide Jordan with their relatable story is an inspiring saga with no showy speeches or actionified heroics building to statuesque memorials. It’s all intimate reflections put down for prosperity to add more witnesses of those who will remember. If anything, you’re going to wish there was even more of a “A Father’s Legacy” spoken by Michael B. Jordan’s voiceovers.

Dana Canedy’s unassuming story is the kind of soulful stimulus that one should bring back to their own lives as they leave the audience. The words and inflections of your personal story, written or spoken and no matter the level of its eventfulness, is special and matters. The people that follow you in life, especially your own children if you’re a parent, should learn your feelings, goals, ideals, failures, sacrifices, and motivations. Tell them why you love your spouse, your career, your country, or whatever else you hold dear. Talk at length and go into detail. Tell it all with laughs and tears, just as A Journal for Jordan does.

Written by Don Shanahan

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing here on 25YL and his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. He is also one of the hosts of the 25YL-backed Cinephile Hissy Fit Podcast on the Ruminations Radio Network. As a school educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Indie Critics and a voting member of the nationally-recognized Critics Choice Association and the Online Film Critics Society.

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