John Henry is an old American folk tale hero, a man who can move mountains despite the hard-scrabble world he lives in.
John and his son approach a railroad company in search of honest work. John carries a hammer forged partly from the chains that only recently held him as a slave, and he’s determined to earn his living as a free man.
His feats of strength became legendary, turning him into a potent symbol of endurance and dignity for the labor and civil rights movement.
But that came later — first he has to get the job and prove himself first.
This short allegory is part history, part fantasy — but above all, it’s larger than life and more than lives up to the central character’s stature in American folklore.
Director Brandon McCormick’s storytelling is bold and audacious, and the production value lives up to the ambition, boasting marvelous period details, broad sweeping camerawork and strong performances.
“John Henry and the Railroad” is a short film of 22 minutes, but it’s a grand entertainment — an unapologetically heartwarming story that inspires spirits and champions the value of “grit, sweat and love.”