Biography Comedy

Review: ‘Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot’ is a Sincere Look at Disability and Overcoming Addiction

July 20, 2018Sherry Li

Based on the memoir of cartoonist John Callahan, Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot tells the story of Callahan's recovery from alcoholism and his adjustment to life as a quadriplegic, following a life-altering car accident. From director and writer Gus Van Sant, this is a poignant and layered look at the many stages in Callahan's life, portraying an abruptly honest and raw view on disability and overcoming addiction.

Starring Joaquin Phoenix as Callahan, the film makes use of Phoenix's range as it cuts back and forth between the present day, when he is sober and famous, his pre-accident and alcoholic stage, and him after the accident as he is in recovery, on his way to sobriety and on his path to becoming a cartoonist. Callahan's journey includes a charming sponsor named Donnie, played by Jonah Hill, who brings forth a surprisingly likable performance that helps to breathe a bit of hope into the various group sessions and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. While in physical therapy, John also meets Annu (Rooney Mara), eventually reconnecting with her again later.

Phoenix and Hill both provide outstanding and moving performances. However, Phoenix's physical performance, depicting Callahan after his car accident, feels unflinchingly real. There isn't a moment where you don't suspend disbelief and see him as John Callahan, as he manages to completely slip into the character. Not to mention, Phoenix's chemistry with Hill is fantastic to watch, despite the fact that he can sometimes be difficult to understand through his mumbling.

Although there are plenty of heavier scenes in the film, there is enough humor sprinkled throughout to keep it from getting too much. Each group session that John attends manages to bring out incredibly impactful performances from Phoenix that leave your eyes glued to the screen. However, the movie feels quite lengthy at times, stumbling occasionally with pacing, and it can sometimes feel a bit disjointed in the way it jumps back and forth between different points in John'’s past. Even though each moment feels essential to John's recovery, it can drag on from time to time for viewers. That said, the story definitely has a lot of ground to cover, however, a stronger focus on Callahan's cartoons and his career feels necessary.

Otherwise, Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot is a touching film that looks at many aspects of disability. This is a story that feels raw and honest, bringing out fantastic performances from Phoenix and Hill in the process. Together, they make up the most memorable aspects of the movie, and though some viewers may find problems with the pacing, it will leave audiences with a heavy heart and quite a bit to mull over.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot releases July 20th, 2018 from Elevation Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language throughout, sexual content, some nudity and alcohol abuse. Its runtime is 1 hr. 53 min.

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