Top critical review
Heartfelt, but failed attempt to show an interesting aspect of Mormonism
May 19, 2018
The one trivia item in Amazon's "x-ray" notes that they lost a camera in Austria along with a great deal of footage. This was pretty far into their trip. Perhaps that is why the film relies so heavily on "interview" type footage done after the fact, primarily by one of the three participants.
This film did not do much to prove it's central thesis. It's more a making-of-featurette than a true documentary. I would love to have seen the film that went along with it. What we get instead are descriptions of the meandering trip of these gentleman throughout Europe, with some occasional scenes from the would-be documentary interspersed. Their connections with other LDS members, while the best part of the film, aren't shown to be easily acquired or unique - Certainly many types of close affinities would see foreign visitors taken in with similar hospitality. This is unfortunate, because I think it's possible such unique connections do exist, and I would love to see this question better explored.
The limited scope of the trip was surprising. Not only because of the globe on the cover image, but the setup which focused heavily on their BYU Hawaii connections. I guessed their travel would include parts of Polynesia, Australia, and the Philippines - Some of the places one traveler said he knew he would have "food and a place to stay" or where one had served a mission. Instead they travelled to Europe where they had relatively few connections.
I was confused about a few things. There is no mention of the one or two women that seemed to have been joining them for part of the trip, as seen in the Ireland, Scotland and France portions. They are also mentioned in the news report from before the trip. If they didn't participate later, it should at least be acknowledged. Another oddity was their need to leave Paris a day early to head out to Spain. This prompted a last-minute sight-seeing tour which granted us some wonderful footage from around Paris, but took a bizarre turn when we learned that the plans for meeting anyone in Spain were tentative at best. What was the true rush to leave Paris? Perhaps I missed something.
My primary negative comes near the beginning of the film. I was about to give credit to the filmmakers for addressing the criticism they received about their planned documentary, however, they did not do this. They did not even give us a general description of what the criticism was about, let alone defend themselves or better yet, explain how they examined their plans based on this criticism and decided whether to make any changes. Instead they were comforted to understand that everything will always be opposed by some people, (in this case, other Church members.) Well, that also means people will oppose things that are bad, right? They do not address this.
Why 2 stars? I would give one, but I have to give some credit for the earnest of this film, if it can be called that. It is revealing and insightful, often in an unintentional way. There is some great footage of Europe cut in throughout, though I suspect they wish there had been more to include. I give credit to the filmmakers for following through on a project like this that I'm sure a thousand groups of Mormon friends have talked about doing, but never done and also for finishing a film of some kind despite their many setbacks. They seem like driven people who will no doubt produce more successful works in other parts of their lives.