The Journey of Natty Gann (1985)

I first saw “The Journey of Natty Gann” not long after its release and it made such an impact on me, I’ve never forgotten it.

Natty (Meredith Salenger) is in her mid-teens, the only child of her parents, and for now, living on her own. Her mother passed away, and her father had to go west to find work. It’s the Depression, and work is scarce in Natty’s hometown of Chicago, so he went to Washington to work in the lumber industry. The job is hard and treacherous, but he knows no other way to support his daughter.

Meanwhile, Natty’s landlady decides to report Natty to the law as an abandoned child. She’ll end up in the orphanage for sure, and she can’t let that happen. Slipping out, she runs away, deciding to go to Washington and find her father.

With very little to her name, she has to sneak onto trains, living the life of a hobo, and finds that she’s just not good at it. She meets and makes friends with Harry (John Cusack) a young man who has lived quite extensively on the rails, and he takes her under his wing.

When Natty arrives in Washington, she discovers that her father isn’t where she thought he was – he’s been transferred. The movie essentially chronicles her journey from one spot to the next as she follows her father, to eventually find him in the end.

Along the way, she meets a wolf, who aides in her journey, and she experiences a brief and innocent romance with Harry.

There were several good things about this film. From a historical aspect, it was very informative and showed us what many of the families during the Depression went through. From an adventure aspect, Natty really had to combat a lot of obstacles, and it was good to see a girl in a role like this – she wasn’t strong because she was trying to promote women’s lib, she was strong because of who she was. And from a romantic perspective, it was very sweet.

This is a movie you can sit down and watch with your whole family, and I highly recommend you do it.

This film was rated PG.

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