“The Keeper” review: Hiking a hard trail | WORLD
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The Keeper

MOVIE | In a heartfelt film with amateurish charm, a veteran hikes the Appalachian Trail to honor service members lost to suicide

Lama Entertainment

<em>The Keeper</em>
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Rated R

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL is one of the most storied treks in North America, and hikers have different motivations for tackling its nearly 2,200 miles. In The Keeper, a film based on a true story, George Eshleman (Angus Benfield) seeks to honor the memory of 363 veterans who killed themselves after serving their country, carrying each of their names on his backpack.

George meets fellow veterans on his long hike, and good-­natured banter between members of the different branches makes for easy small talk. But the conversations get serious when he answers their questions about the name tags. Through new friendships, long talks, and the hardships of a grueling journey, George is encouraged to carry on. Will he be able to fight his own depression and tough it out to the end of the trail?

Many veterans worked on this production—including co-directors Benfield and Kendall Bryant Jr. While Benfield is a credible actor, some of the others are less accomplished. Some of the dialogue also seems a little unrealistic. For example, hikers who’ve just met quickly dispense weighty advice. Even so, The Keeper has an amateurish charm. The movie is rated R for coarse language and flashbacks of war violence.

Armed forces veterans commit suicide at a significantly higher rate than the American population as a whole, so the film explores a worthwhile topic. George stumbles when he tries to power through trials by relying solely on his own courage and determination. The filmmakers remind the audience that “you never walk the trail alone.” That’s an encouragement to veterans who struggle with mental illness or PTSD—as well as the friends and family who can walk alongside them.

Marty VanDriel Marty is a TV and film critic for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and CEO of a custom truck and trailer building company. He and his wife, Faith, reside in Lynden, Wash., near children and grandchildren.


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