In the documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble, the eponymous civil rights leader and legislator is mostly depicted in the light of saintly knight or steward.
I suppose if one were to critique such a depiction in and of itself, a “dirt devil” would seek a little more dust in the creases and upon the wings — but I find director Dawn Porter’s portrayal to be refreshingly delightful even during some of the film’s tense and difficult moments.
The execution of this hagiographic documentary seems to deliberately, directly and subconsciously suggest a brighter/larger message of moral fortitude.
Via a newspaper-clipping, era-hopping style, scenes throughout Lewis’ 80 years merge to lend even more power and validity to society’s call for change and progress — though viewers may feel a little lost in time due to the juxtapositions throughout different decades as Porter builds her overall emotional flow of joy, sorrow and fear.
In typical documentary fashion, we’re exposed to everything from still frames, wavy B&W video, technicolor and modern-day, crystal-clear HD footage.
In effect, viewers feel as if they’ve actually traveled a fair distance — not only because we move through a significant chunk of 20th- and 21st-century history, but because Lewis himself travels, constantly coming or going, meeting and speaking. And that’s merely in his present-day adventures as a politician, years after traveling from Selma, Ala., to the march on Washington to the lunch counter sit-ins, as well as many more perilous demonstrations.
Although Good Trouble doesn’t omit tragedy and heartache, it most certainly does not deprive the audience of love and optimism. At times, some of the political aspects may drag on for anyone who may not be the biggest fan of Washington politics and procedures in general, but this fundamental aspect that’s all but necessary in a bio-doc about John Lewis by no means detracts from its overall uplifting nature.
As such, Porter has gently and sternly presented a humble, brilliant and steadfast man of peace who always seems to be shamelessly in the act of wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Available to rent starting July 3 via fineartstheatre.com and grailmoviehouse.com