Jefferson acquiescently offers to take her to her only surviving relatives in a town that’s a few hundred miles away, riding on a twohorse carriage that probably barely moves faster than they could walk. The journey proves to be treacherous with bandits and other generally terrible people along the way. Trying to get to their destination in one piece, Jefferson and Helena form a bond and help one another find meaning in their lives.
Director Paul Greengrass does a fine job with his steady narrative, but makes somewhat of a strange choice. He goes to great lengths to shoot this entire film from the sole perspective of Hanks’ character, but then headscratchingly displays subtitles for the unintelligible Johanna whenever she speaks in another language. Jefferson can’t understand what she’s saying so the audience shouldn’t be able to either.
Fortunately, the director is adequately able to find the essence of this story and temper any urges to cheapen its broad sentiment. His choices are usually prudent, presenting this easily-telegraphed plot with a surprisingly effortless emotional weight. However—even though none of this is his fault we’ve seen this tale plenty of times before and the end result is predictable from the onset, never once shying away from it or trying to convince us otherwise.