In watching the trailer for A Journal for Jordan, I surmised that this factual story, inspired by award-winning author Dana Canedy’s book of the same name, would be centered on love. But my assumption that the two-hour-plus film would focus solely on the bond between a father and his son was soon dismissed when I realized the love story at the heart of it was less of the familial kind and something more romantic.
Now, I love a good love story because, well, I love love. And I’m always game to watch the awkward beginnings of a romantic relationship as the connection between two humans grows roots and begins to flourish. The difficult part of leaning into this whirlwind romance in A Journal for Jordan is knowing that before the end of the film, it must, in some respect, come to an end. After all, this is the true story of First Sgt. Charles Monroe King, who was killed in combat during the Iraq War. And yet for nearly two hours, knowing how it would all end, I remained captivated by the excitement of the love that was.
The film, directed by Denzel Washington and starring Michael B. Jordan as Charles and Chanté Adams as Dana, is not the kind of movie that relies on good writing or award-worthy portrayals to entertain. Instead, this is a movie for the lovers—those who enjoy being captivated by the allure of a good romance and are intrigued by the touching moments that make each couple’s story unique.
We meet Dana in 2007 on her job as an editor at The New York Times. She’s a bit wound up, clearly frustrated by the male patriarchal structure at her office, and struggling a bit to find a sense of normalcy after the life she envisioned is taken away. But after voicing her reality—she is now a single mom—the movie makes way for happier times, laying a foundation for the woman we see at the beginning of the film.
Dana and Charles have an opposites attract kind of connection. While she is the New York City hyper-focused career woman with aspirations to climb her newspaper’s masthead, he is the small-town divorced dad of one who loves nothing more than to be of service to his country. On paper, these two don’t have the kind of compatibility you would expect to form a long-term love, but then you see in subsequent scenes the moments that change their trajectory.
Movies inspired by true events are always a bit tricky to tackle. And this story, in particular, struggles a bit to pay homage to a man who laid down his life for his country while simultaneously leaning into the emotions experienced by the woman who loved him. But what it does deliver is a beautiful portrayal of the love bonds that form, not only in the physical but more importantly in the intangible.
Through Charles’s written 200-page diary, gifted to him by Dana, and then given to his son, Jordan, lessons of a father take shape. It is these lessons—embrace your skin, treat women with respect, be an upstanding man—that exemplify the full extent of Charles’s adoration for the woman he asked to marry him and the child they created together. A Journal for Jordan doesn’t have the happy ending one comes to expect from love stories. But still, it reminds you that true love never ends.
Tanya Christian is a writer and editor based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @tanyaachristian.