I'm certain that Dana Canedy and Charles Monroe King, the real-life couple depicted in A Journal for Jordan
, had dreams, aspirations and even thoughts, but all of these qualities have been scrubbed clean for this cinematic take on their relationship. If this movie is to be believed, they fell in love, gave birth to a son, and then he wrote some inspiring words in a journal for their son before he was tragically killed while he was serving his country in Iraq.
I'm also sure there's a lot more to this story than what screenwriter Virgil Williams and director Denzel Washington are telling us. These characters are after all based on real people, and I'm sure they had their share of issues, insecurities, and arguments. But we never get to see it, because they have been fashioned here as an attractive but bland couple who think only about how much they love each other every second of every day. This is what your current or most recent relationship would be like if it were written by Nicholas Sparks. If real life were depicted as here, we'd all have time to improve ourselves, work out more, and write heartfelt poetry to our loved ones, because it would be all we would have time for, without pesky things like jobs, other relationships, or bills getting in the way.
Granted, Dana (played by Chanté Adams) is a respected journalist at the New York Times, just as the real life Dana was at the time the story happened. We see her sitting at her desk sometimes, or walking the halls of the building, but we never actually see her working, and the only time she writes is when she's jotting down her late husband's thoughts on her home computer that will become a best-selling book, and eventually this film. We see that she has a small circle of friends, which include two women and a guy. They exist to share drinks with her once in a while, or babysit her son when needed. We're introduced to her family in the opening scenes, but they disappear shortly after, not to be seen again until the end. As far as this movie knows, all Dana ever did was try to build a life with Charles (Michael B. Jordan), and give birth to his son, Jordan.
Charles is a military man. They meet at a cook out her father is holding (her father was his drill sergeant), and there is an instant attraction, since both Adams and Jordan are attractive people. He's soft spoken, enjoys art, and likes to paint and draw on the side. He starts visiting her at her upscale apartment in Manhattan so he can see New York, but he gets to see very little of it, as most of the time they're at her apartment making PG-13-rated love. Their relationship blossoms, with hardly a bump in the road. The only disagreement they have is when he fails to meet up with her because another soldier's wife was having a baby, and he forgot to tell her he was at the hospital. They break up because of this, but they're back together literally two minutes later, since he shows up at the apartment to apologize. Charles talks about his family, but I don't think we ever see them. His life is all about serving the country, and when he's not doing that, he's making sweet love to her, or waxing poetic about how beautiful she is.
I'm not denying that this stuff actually happened. I just have a hard time believing it happened as clean cut and as perfectly as it does in A Journal for Jordan
. This is a movie that has been scrubbed of all sincerity and imperfections, and instead drowns itself in Hallmark sentiment. It's the kind of film where you're happy for the central couple, but you kind of wish they were more interesting and had more to talk about other than how perfect the other one is. The least the movie could do is maybe throw in some interesting or funny side characters, but the film is so focused on their unfailing love that there's no time for anything else. So, we wait for the inevitable tragedy, and we wait for little Jordan to be old enough to ask his mom about his father, so she can write the book. Not that I was anxious to see it get published, more it would mean the movie would almost be over at that point.
In 2016, Denzel Washington proved he could direct a fantastic and gripping drama with his film of the August Wilson play, Fences
, so maybe he felt he needed a holiday after making such a hard-hitting film by doing a simple romantic story. I don't blame him. I do question his judgement for attaching himself to something this artificial and cloying, however.