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I was restless. The kind that starts in your toes, like you are about to run the 100 meter dash and your toes are the only things holding on to the starting block, but even they don't really want to be there. They want to run, shoot your entire body forward in a burst of adrenaline and physical euphoria. That was my condition, working at my desk in a florescent lit office, the day after watching Janapar: Love on a Bike. The film had turned me from the focused guy who works two jobs into a bowl of quivering jelly. I couldn't sit still. I wanted out into the world.
Janapar hits, nay barrages, you with themes of the classic man against social norms, adventuring out into the world, not knowing where he is going, what he'll be doing tomorrow, or when he plans on returning to his structured life. Tom Allen, a resident of Middleton, England, decided he was tired of structure and so many things in life being dictated to him, so he purchased a bike, gathered two companions and a few supplies and pedaled across Europe. By the time he reached Georgia he had lost one of his companions, was close to losing the other and was looking at journeying into Iran on his own.
(Caption: There's nothing like the generosity of hosts. Photo credit: Tom Allen.)
It is at this juncture that the story really begins. While I am sure Europe was gorgeous and as eventful as any of the other destinations Tom visited, the story starts to take a very different shape as he sets out on his own into Armenia. At this point, Tom, as many gentlemen his age do, finds a woman who captures his heart.
The film transforms from what I thought would be a predictable documentary about an amazing cross-cultural trip with a few mishaps along the way into one of the most unusual, yet endearing and uplifting love stories I have seen in a while. The storytelling is awkward at times and suffers from some amatuer camera work; nevertheless, the film defies the odds, managing to be both beautiful and captivating.
The film tends to jump back and forth in the timeline, which helps integrate Tom’s larger journey into the love story, but ultimately leaves us with some unanswered questions and missing scenes. Immersion Travel Magazine had an opportunity to ask the Janapar crew a few questions about this, and as you might suspect, the camera simply was unable to run the entire time. In one instance, the camera captures Tom returning heroically to the door of the woman he loves. He nocks on the door, we wait impatiently with him for the door to open, but it never does. In reality, an exhausted Tom turned off the camera and fell asleep in the hallway waiting for Tenny, the love interest in the story, “ I fell asleep in the corridor and was woken up by Tenny returning from a friend's house some time later. By that point I'd lost the plot altogether and could barely undress myself for bed, let alone wield a video camera!” Quite simply, it is quite a feat for a single man to bike the world, film it all himself and come out with every scene from a non-existent story board.
(Caption: Photo credit: Tom Allen)
In most cases I would have considered the shortcomings detrimental to the whole film, but the fact is that I loved it. Somehow the editing just worked. While both Clare and I wanted to learn more about the trip as a whole, the film’s aim was to illustrate a love story that nearly derailed Tom’s mission to cycle the world. If you find yourself craving more details of the trip, Tom has written a book with the same name.
We loved the film and would absolutely recommend it to our readers, especially anyone who has done any bike touring in the past. However, be prepared for a little restlessness afterward.
You can purchase the film on Janapar’s website in DVD, digital download or instant stream formats. Be sure to check out the behind the scenes material, Tom's Flickr account with photos of his adventures, and keep an eye out for what Tom is working on next.
(Caption: Tom Allen taking a selfie. Photo credit: Tom Allen.)