The Slant, an Online Magazine
by Darren Crovitz
Harish Saluja's endearing new film The Journey updates the theme of clashing of cultures as seen through the relationship of an “Old World” father and his Americanized son. The film does it with a shy sort of grace and a subtlety that engages even the most cynical of movie-goers. The film delivers a message of spirituality and affirmation.
Kishan (Roshan Seth, Gandhi) is a retired Indian schoolmaster, who comes to America to visit his son's family - suburbanites whose busy lives have them overwhelmed. Kishan's immediate experiences are all predictable variations of cultural confusion, as he attempts to deal with American appliances, mores, and lifestyles. Saluja handles these moments with a wise hand; they are often funny, and we empathize with the main character's plight, but the feeling is that more profound conflicts lie ahead.
Much of the middle third of the movie is devoted to the growing friction between Kishan and his American-born daughter-in-law, Laura. A writer frustrated by both pressing deadlines and the strange (and sometimes thoughtless) habits of her husband's father, she displays a simmering displeasure, and when Kishan decides to stay indefinitely, these feelings emerge more fully. As viewers, we can sense the deeper implications of this family problem and its comment upon two societies with entirely different values.
Eventually, in a series of short scenes (most often with his young grand-daughter) that display his patience and quiet love, it is Kishan's simple joy of life and "Eastern" philosophical bearing that bring Laura back around and the family closer together. The film concludes rather abruptly, and without a coherent assembling of its many hinted-at social ideas.
However, it manages a warmth and a transcendence that might have the best of us, if not reaching for a copy of Siddhartha, then at least thinking about it. The film works largely through its gentle charm and the social differences it highlights as we follow Kishan and his family's evolution.
Nuggets like Laura's harried statement that "life gets in the way of art" will at least leave you thoughtful, and at its best, The Journey succeeds in revealing the topography of the enlightened life, even if it doesn't show us the way.