Jim Broadbent and Penelope Wilton lead the cast for the tear-jerking new film The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which arrives in UK cinemas this weekend.


Broadbent takes on the role of the title character – who decides to embark on a long quest from his home in Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where old friend Queenie has recently been placed into hospice care.

Throughout the film, the character meets a vast array of people from all walks of life, while we also peel back the layers of his own tragic backstory and the exact nature of his friendship with Queenie.

If you've watched the film already – or are planning a trip to the cinema to watch it soon – you might be wondering if the film is based on a true story. Read on for everything you need to know.

Is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry a true story?

No – the film is not based on a true story, but it is adapted from a novel of the same name by Rachel Joyce, which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2012 and won the UK National Book Award for New Writer of the Year.

That book was itself based on Joyce's own short radio play, which she dedicated to her father – who was dying from cancer while she was writing it and sadly did not live long enough to hear the finished script.

Speaking to The Observer in 2014, Joyce explained that "people often do ask questions about Harold as if he were a real person".

She added: "The book was based on my own experience of my dad dying of cancer and I explained to people that what Queenie went through was exactly what I’d seen happen to him.

"But the more I said it, the more I felt I was short-changing my dad. I realised I needed to give Queenie a full life, a lived life, just as I wanted to acknowledge all the things my dad had done in his life before he became ill."

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is now showing in UK cinemas. Visit our Film hub for more news, interviews and features or find something to watch now with our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


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