One Long Journey

When I went to see the first Manchester screening of One Long Journey at HOME, I was surprised the cinema wasn’t fuller. Having met Vik and the One Long Journey crew three years earlier [interview featured in NT#5], I was eager to see the film.

I suspect a lot of the audience, who mostly seemed to have a personal connection with the film in some way, either with the makers - visual anthropologists Ben Cheetham and Tom Turner, and director Andy Lawrence - or with the subject, 70-year-old Vik Pengilly-Johnson.

It was an advantage to know Vik’s backstory and how the film was made, because aside from the beginning of the film, there is very little information about Vik, his motivation for buying a boat or indeed why or how he was filmed. But for me, one of the most interesting things about One Long Journey is how it was made. Ben and Tom lived alongside Vik on a boat yard in Lymm and filmed him for eight hours a day, every day, for five months. There are no interviews to camera and they tried to guide the outcome of the film as little as possible.

But by living in such close quarters, they built up a strong relationship and a high level of trust with Vik, so they could film every last detail of his experience, and it feels as close to being there as a film viewer is ever likely to get. There are some truly funny and poignant moments captured on film, but at other times, the moments don’t say enough.

It was Andy Lawrence’s job as director to look at the footage on a weekly basis and decide which bits to keep. There are no interviews, no voiceovers and no subtitles to inform the audience, just a pile of footage that is woven together to tell Vik’s story.

To make up for the lack of narration, there’s a soundtrack made specifically for the film by Manchester band Walk. The fit is so snug that I’m amazed the lyrics were written before seeing the film, but letting fate decide seems to be part of the journey.

Emma Roy-Williams