The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Film

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a 2023 British drama film directed by Hettie Macdonald. It is based on the 2012 New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller of the same name by Rachel Joyce. The film stars Jim Broadbent and Penelope Wilton.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was released in the United Kingdom on 28 April 2023.


Retired pensioner Harold Fry lives in Kingsbridge in Devon with his wife Maureen, whose marriage to him has become uneventful, partly due to an unspeakable conflict relating to the absence of their son.

One day, Harold receives a letter from his old friend, Queenie Hennessy, who is living in a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed. He sets off to the post office to send her a letter, and decides to keep walking - all the way to her hospice, 450 miles away. Along the way, he encounters a variety of people who show interest in, and support for, his hiking achievement.


The project was set to be directed by Hettie Macdonald, with Kate McCullough as director of photography, production design by Christina Moore, and costume design by Sarah Blenkinsop. The film was produced by Kevin Loader, Juliet Dowling and Marilyn Milgrom, and was developed with Film4 and the British Film Institute. Financing was arranged by Embankment Films and provided by the BFI and Ingenious Productions. It was the year’s biggest investment made in new film by the BFI.


Jim Broadbent joined the project to play Harold in February 2021. Broadbent had previously also voiced the audiobook. He also previously worked with the author of the book when she worked as an actress - Joyce had played Perdita to his Leontes in a production of ‘The Winter’s Tale’ at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in 1987. Penelope Wilton joined the project in June 2021.


Filming took place entirely on location to match Harold’s walk in the story. Filming began in Devon, with filming locations including Kingsbridge, Loddiswell, South Brent, Higher Dean, Buckfast, Exeter, Tiverton and Appledore. Filming also took place in Bath, Somerset, and Gloucestershire. Further locations were Ripley, Derbyshire, as well as Sheffield and on the border between Wakefield and Dewsbury, Yorkshire.


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry holds an approval rating of 88%.

Critical response

Deborah Ross for The Spectator described it as an “incredibly beautiful film to look at” and that “Broadbent is a wonder, so real and sincere it doesn’t feel like acting…and Wilton equals him”. Ross concluded that “this may even be one of those rare instances where the film is better than the book.”

Kevin Maher in The Times described it as “immediately one of the great movies about ageing and regret” with director Macdonald a “secret weapon” whose “return to cinema is something to be celebrated”.

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian said the film was “impeccably acted, sincerely intended and often beautifully shot”.



• Jim Broadbent as Harold Fry
- Adam Jackson-Smith as young Harold Fry
• Penelope Wilton as Maureen Fry
- Bethan Cullinane as young Maureen Fry
• Linda Bassett as Queenie Hennessy
• Joseph Mydell as Rex
• Earl Cave as David Fry
• Monika Gossman as Martina
• Maanuv Thiara as Mick
• Nina Singh as Garage Girl
• Daniel Frogson as Wilf
• Naomi Wirthner as Kate
• Claire Rushbrook as Farmer’s wife
• Ian Porter as Jim the Oncologist
• Joy Richardson as Sister Philomena
• Sam Lee as Singer


A soundtrack featuring music and original songs from the film was released featuring two original songs written and performed by Sam Lee.


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was released in the United Kingdom on 28 April 2023, by eOne.