Friday, April 11, 2014

Movie Review: *****17 Miracles

This movie is very good at telling its story.  I am not sure of the title, 17 miracles.  There were miracles a plenty on this trek, and to limit oneself to number is a disservice.  Of course the film maker may be thinking they are showing only 17, but a miracle to one is not to another, so the number is somewhat arbitrary.  I can think of many other miracles which were not included in the story.  These included: The miracles with regards to food, the stranger giving jerky, and the pots filling with food, or finding food on the plains, rescue from wolves, escape from an abusive husband etc.
My only complaint is the mixture of two stories historically, Martin and Willie handcart companies.  I enjoyed the stories shown, some of which I was already familiar, and others I was not.  Brother Savage, as the narrator used words of many people, including Wallace Stegner, Frances Webster and Josiah Rogerson.  I am sure there were others I did not recognize. 

I was confused at times with the switch from the Martin to the Willie Company.  This also threw the timeline off.  Bodil, who is shown passing away, after the rescuers had reached the Willie Company, and after they had climbed Rocky Ridge.  However they showed the rescue of the Martin Company which was several days later, at Red Buttes.  I liked the bits about the Loader family who were with the Martin Company.  There is a story of the mother, pretending to fall one morning to get her girls up out of bed.  I would have like to have seen that story.  I also missed the Jacksons, whose husband died, but visited her in a dream telling her the rescuers were coming. 

As for my personal connection, I must admit, the story choked me up to the point I was in tears.  Not only for the people portrayed in the movie, but also for my own great-great-aunty Betsy Ashton, who froze her feet at last crossing, and passed away shortly after this.  Her two younger sisters survived the trip.  The youngest, Mary, is my great-great grandmother.  I also watched those digging graves, as my great-great grandfather was also on the trek, dug many graves.

My only objection to the movie is with regards the the written information at the end, which claimed that not many more on the the two treks passed away than with the regular pioneer trips.  Generally it is accepted that six percent of the pioneers passed away on the trips.  With regards to this journey, the number would be between 18 and 20 percent, or three times the normal death rate.  This rate is derived by adding the deaths for the two trips, 65 of the Willie Company and 135-150 of the Martin Company.  The total pioneers was 500 in the Wilie Company and 650 in the Martin Company.

Despite its problems with combining two stories, this movie for me receives the highest marks, and I will be viewing it over and over.

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