For the families of military personnel, it is always a daunting task to live a normal life knowing that their loved ones willingly put their lives on the line during deployments — never knowing if their loved ones will return home alive. Director Denzel Washington follows this pain in his recently released film “A Journal for Jordan,” which details the beautiful love story of a journalist and a deployed soldier who writes a journal and book for their then-infant son to better understand who his parents were when they met and who they evolved into.
Based on a true story, “A Journal for Jordan” incorporates an abundance of flashbacks from the point of view of single mother and senior editor for The New York Times Dana Canedy, played by Chanté Adams. Canedy’s flashbacks help her reflect on how she met, fell in love with, got engaged to and started a family with 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King of the U.S. Army, played by Michael B. Jordan, before losing him to war.
The film begins with Canedy as a successful journalist and single mother to Jordan, her 10-month-old son. Still struggling to juggle her career, her responsibilities as a newly single mother and the recent death of her fiancé, Canedy decides to write a memoir dedicated to her son in the hopes that he will one day read it and know who his parents were both as individuals and as a couple, how his parents met and fell in love and how much his parents loved him. From there, the film switches back and forth between Canedy’s memories of their relationship throughout the years to the present day.
In “A Journal for Jordan,” the couple meets when Canedy, who works and lives in New York, pays a visit to her childhood home in Kentucky and enters the house to find King hanging a photo for her father. King and Canedy engage in conversation and become fascinated with one another. The pair spends some time together before Canedy returns to New York and does not hear from King again for a few weeks.
King eventually reaches out to Canedy, and they begin talking on the phone regularly. Days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. After a while, Canedy and King plan King’s visit to New York. Rather than having King stay at a hotel, Canedy welcomes him to stay with her in her apartment. The first trip goes so well that King begins to make more frequent visits to New York and stays with Canedy each time. Their strong feelings for one another soon evolve into a romantic relationship, and the two make it official. The film depicts Canedy and King as any other couple; they laugh, cry, argue and look after each other.
Toward the middle of the Sony Pictures movie, Canedy finds out that King received orders to Baghdad and suggests that they have a baby together. King agrees, and they conceive their baby boy, Jordan. In fear that King may not come back from the war alive, Canedy gifts him an empty journal that he can use to write messages and words of advice for their son so he will have a way to get to know his father in case he does not return home.
Months following King’s deployment to Iraq, Canedy begs King to put in his leave so he can be present for his son’s birth, but he chooses to remain in Iraq because he does not want anything to happen to the soldiers that he is responsible for. Canedy births their son with friends and family at her side.
King returns home to his family for his two-week break when Jordan is six months old. With only a month left until his tour on duty is up, King returns to Iraq, where an improvised explosive device (IED) explodes beneath his armored vehicle, killing him.
At the end of “A Journal for Jordan,” Jordan is a preteen who is struggling with bullies at school. His mom decides that he is old enough to read the journal that his father wrote for him. With the help of his godmother, Jordan plans a trip for him and his mom to Washington to visit his father’s gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. Jordan surprises his mom by inviting his grandparents, his godmother and several of his father’s colleagues and soldiers to his gravesite to pay their respects. While at the grave, Jordan reads an excerpt from his father’s journal and gifts his mother a folded flag that she didn’t receive from the U.S. Army because she and King weren’t married.
The heartfelt film is likely to leave many in tears. While some of the details depicted in the film are fictional, the timeline of events and the included journal entries are accurate as outlined in Canedy’s memoir, “A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor.”
Wanting for Jordan to keep the journal that his dad wrote specifically for him, Canedy decided to write her memoir to incorporate her thoughts and advice and merge her ideas with excerpts from King’s journal. Her memoir acts as a guide that Jordan can use to navigate thoughts surrounding his relationships, what his parents were like before his birth and advice on how to be his most authentic and unapologetic self.
Canedy makes it clear that the fame that has risen following the release of the film “A Journal for Jordan” means nothing to her and she just wanted to do something memorable for her son and show the sacrifice that military personnel and their families often make.
The cast of the film displays raw emotion, making it easy for viewers to connect with the on-screen family and feel the stress, admiration and sadness that Canedy must have felt as she endured the timeline of events outlined in “A Journal for Jordan.” For the two-hour duration of the movie, it may seem like you’re just watching an ordinary film, but by the end, it hits you that this is the story of a real family, and so many questions begin to flood your mind. How was Canedy so strong throughout these events? Does she regret allowing herself to fall in love with a military man? How hard was it to raise a son without his father present? Why was King so quiet and reserved with his colleagues and Canedy, but open and transparent in his letters to his son?
“A Journal for Jordan” is an intimate film, to say the least, and its production quality makes it evident that everyone involved wanted this film to be memorable and cherished. If you are looking for a moving film to watch, “A Journal for Jordan” is a must-see that you will not regret watching.