Movie Review: A Grieving Man and his Motorcycle, “A Thousand Miles Behind”

A man loses his wife and daughter in a car crash and seeks solace on his Ducati Scrambler X riding the mountains, beaches and deserts of California in the somber, largely dialogue and incident-free “A Thousand Miles Behind.”

I liked the way actor turned writer-director Nathan Wetherington treated this treatise on grief, checking out of the misery, responsibility and reminders of what just happened as an interior journey. Little talking, minimal interaction, no overt explaining.

A guy (Jeffrey Doornbos) lies in bed, kisses his wife (Bre Blair) goodbye with his tweenage daughter waiting in the car. Next thing we know, a cop in a suit is there, Preston’s (Doornbos) in his suit as well, and his cell phone is ringing, beeping and burping with texts, emails, unreturned calls — expressions of grief, little errands (picking up his daughter’s things from school) that he simply cannot face.

A friend walks in on him sleeping in his back yard. He can’t bear to be in the house. And a motorcycle with a note on it shows up in the driveway.

Even that isn’t explained. His old bike, returned? A loaner from Wes (Scott Kinworthy)?

After a day or so more of letting his hair and beard grow and leaving his phone off, he’s packed up and hits the blue highways of California, riding the salt flats (It’s an on or off road bike.), camping at Joshua Tree, “where the streets have no name.”

But the gaping hole in “A Thousand Miles Behind” is that there is literally nothing more to it than this. It’s a rolling ad for the Ducati — except when he lays it down in loose sand and has a devil of a time getting it back upright.

The odd “Where ya’headed?” query from a cute store clerk, a sympathetic pour from a fetching bartender, and that one other solitary soul (Vanessa Campbell of “The Lovers”) who hits him with “What’re you running from, Preston?” Even she cackles at that cliche. It’s a joke. In the way of such movies, she just KNOWS his story.

There was a similar movie about grief starring Josh Lucas a few years back, “A Year in Mooring (Hide Away).” That was built around the cliche of the middle-aged man retreating into a bottle and a boat due to grief. I rather liked that (Lucas, James Cromwell and Ayelet Zurer make for a more interesting, charismatic cast). But I’m into boats, not bikes.

This “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Grieving” left me wanting a movie to go with the 70 minute Ducati ad.


MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, alcohol abuse, profanity

Cast: Jeffrey Doornbos, Bre Blair, Vanessa Campbell and Greg Evigan.

Credits: Written and directed by Nathan Wetherington. A Level 33 release.

Running time:

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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2 Responses to Movie Review: A Grieving Man and his Motorcycle, “A Thousand Miles Behind”

  1. Rick says:

    Sounds like it was inspired by Neil Peart’s (Rush) experiences; his wife died of cancer, and not a year later his daughter was killed in an accident. Then he took off on his motorbike for a year. Too many coincidences for me.

    • You’re not the first to point that out. Truthfully, as I pointed out in the review, it’s not a fresh plot idea at all. “Blue Highways,” “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” too many books and movies and TV shows to count, as numerous as the many drums on Mr. Peart’s kit. All of them predating his book.

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