by Bonnie Anderson and Bob Bowman
This documentary film is about two lifelong best friends who undertake the 500 mile pilgrimage, 35 day pilgrimage across the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. But the film is much more than a trip journal.
Many pilgrims undertake this journey. So what is different about these two friends? Justin lives with a progressively worsening, debilitating muscle disease and, having lost the use of his arms and legs, is a wheelchair user. Justin’s best friend, Patrick promised to do the trek with Justin. Patrick vowed to “push” him (or ultimately do whatever it would take – carry haul, lift) to complete the journey. Justin and Patrick are unique people. As the film unfolds, and we learn more about them, we are given a surprisingly intimate look into the depth of the human spirit.
The journey and the documentation of it is clearly a monumental undertaking and the resulting film is moving and beautifully photographed. We found ourselves cheering for Patrick and Justin as they overcome a number of barriers to their progress, and we became concerned over the depths of exhaustion that Patrick was putting himself through in an effort to make the journey as easy and cheerful as possible for Justin. At the same time we would have liked to hear more from Justin during the journey.
‘I’ll Push You’ reminds us that the Holy Spirit comes to us at unexpected times and often in unusual situations. True transformation is an arduous journey for everyone, triggered in our own families by terrible accidents. But transformation can also be a choice, like the one Patrick makes to push beyond his limits. This difficult trek is the vehicle for his transformation. And although Justin occasionally talks about being a “burden”, throughout the journey we see his positive outlook and generous acceptance of help, but Patrick’s transformation is poignant, breathtaking, and demonstrable during the journey and into his new life beyond.
This film is much more than a story of two friends and the challenges they face on a rough journey. The film is a story of love, hope and community and it contains important messages for us about giving up our illusions of control and fully embracing the presence of God in our life, This is a film is to be savored among friends and loved ones.
Bob Bowman is a wheelchair user and activist who lives with his husband in Albuquerque, NM, where he is a member of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Bonnie’s son is also a wheelchair user.