Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot is a mouthful of a title for sure. It’s a facetious title for a movie about a real-life cartoonist named John Callahan who became a quadriplegic, then joined AA to deal with his alcoholism and get sober.
A New Movie Takes a Moving Look at Addiction and Recovery
Don’t Worry was directed by Gus Van Sant, who previously dealt with addiction in his previous films Drugstore Cowboy and Last Days. As the L.A. Times points out, “All three films explore the gnawing burden of addiction and are relevant at a time when America is caught in an opioid and heroin epidemic that has swept through large and small towns with unprecedented deadly potency.”
As Van Sant told the Times, “I had kidney stones and I was able to deal with it by just drinking water, but they said in case there’s pain take this OxyContin. There was a similar culture in the 1800s. Aspirin had heroin. They once had cocaine in Coca-Cola.”
Van Sant also acknowledges that with today’s painkillers, especially with elderly people who need them for pain management, they can have “a few problems but they get out of balance with their prescriptions and they turn into drug takers.”
How a Movie About Alcoholism Developed
The initial inspiration for Don’t Worry came from Robin Williams, who first made Van Sant aware of Callahan’s story. It would have made a great starring vehicle for Williams, who also famously had addiction issues of his own. Williams, unfortunately, committed suicide in 2014, and Joaquin Phoenix is now starring in the role.
Callahan was already an alcoholic before he got into a car accident and became a quadriplegic, “but the accident made him keep drinking,” Van Sant says. “He didn’t know what to do. He kept drinking for another seven or eight years. The epiphany was the moment where he couldn’t reach his bottle. It was behind the couch, and he supposedly stopped cold at that moment. The condensed view of his life was that he was an alcoholic who drew his sobriety as a successful cartoonist.”
Capturing AA Meetings
Don’t Worry also includes scenes in AA meetings, and the film has a composite character named Donnie, who is the leader of Callahan’s AA group. This movie certainly takes a different look at recovery and rehabilitation, and several of Donnie’s AA group sayings include, “Today, we celebrate mediocrity,” and “it’s hard to teach people faith.”
Before shooting the film, Van Sant attended an AA meeting and remarked, “People tell the stories of their lives and people try to trip them up, find discrepancies. What is your hidden difficulty? Someone in the group tells their story and they have their mother, sister, brother, but at the end, someone challenges them and says, ‘What about your father? You didn’t mention him once.’”
“Approaches the Cliff of Sentiment Without Going Over the Edge”
Early reviews for Don’t Worry are mixed to positive, and Rolling Stone notes the film “approaches the cliff of sentiment without going over the edge.” Callahan’s struggle is “the kind of showoff role that Oscar-hungry stars leap at. Luckily, a real actor got their first.”