Uneasy Riders – A Review of The Flying Dutchmen
If all went according to plan, Jon would drive his friend/mentor Daryl on a 3,000-mile trip to the Pacific Northwest on a custom motorcycle fitted with a sidecar. The trip would fulfill a longstanding promise and allow Jon to pay Daryl back for helping him through rough times. It had a sense of urgency as Daryl suffered from degenerative eye disease that’ll leave him blind. He’d likely never have another opportunity like this one. But in the grand tradition of road trips, nothing went as planned. Faced with a myriad of difficulties, including the motorcycle completely falling apart, Jon and Daryl kept pushing forward, determined to reach their destination. In this charming debut documentary by directed by Kendal Miller, all the peaks and valleys of their journey were captured in a highly cinematic and heartfelt manner.Both men are instantly likable in their unique ways. Jon Helmuth (also the film’s executive producer) glows with boyish enthusiasm and occasional shortsightedness–such as writing directions on his hand before realizing he won’t be able to see them when he wears his gloves. Daryl Zook is kind to a degree that’s rarely seen, a man who wants to give and never ask for anything in return. The chemistry between the two men is instantly palpable, and it’s clear they bring out the best in each other, even when faced with their frequent setbacks on the road.
Of course the success of the trip isn’t just reaching the destination, but the emotional journey of the two men. It is a joy to watch the instances when they open up to one another, pushing past the jovial banter that has clearly defined their relationship for years. You can feel the weight of the years in their words. Perhaps the only shortcoming in the film wanting to know even more about each of the men. We’re given enough to go on, but every now and then, little bits of their personal backstories are teased, such the details of Jon’s marriage and Daryl’s large adopted family. Though it would probably veer too off course for the film, every now and then I wanted to be given just a little more detail.
It’s easy to see why the film won Best Cinematography at the Festival South Film Expo; it’s simply stunning thanks to the talents of Matthew Jeppsen. Combining that with a great original score and fine editing, the film has all the sheen and polish of a major motion picture. Sometimes you might forget you’re watching a documentary. Certainly some of the on-the road shots had to be planned or staged, but never does that distract from the narrative. When the trip concludes, you’re left wanting to experience many more travels with Jon and Daryl.
The Flying Dutchmen is a genuine and accomplished documentary that captures the sort of friendship for which everyone should strive. It does not yet have a release date, but the filmmakers are currently in discussions with several distributors for a fall ’16 public release. For more information and updates, be sure to check out the film’s Facebook page.