Sue Johnston’s Shangri-La Review: Orient Express

February 15, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

tv-stars-3halfsue johnstons300x210SUE JOHNSTON’S SHANGRI LA: Monday 15th February, BBC1, 10.35pm ALERT ME

Sue Johnston, better known to us as Barbara from The Royle Family, recently went on a quest to discover the mystical and elusive land of Shangri La.

To those not in the loop, Shangri La is a fictional place said to be like heaven on Earth. Sue had dreamed of this utopia since she was 16 and now she finally had the chance to set off to find it.

Inspired from the book Lost Horizon by James Hilton, Sue travelled from South West China to the peaceful mountains of Tibet. It was a journey that would not only showcase the most breathtaking scenery but would change her in more ways than she imagined.

Recreating the journey of explorer Joseph Rock, Sue visited monasteries and local communities absorbing the wealth of peace and tranquility that throws our own lifestyles into harsh light. She was searching for a particular mountain that was discovered by Rock and featured prominently in the novel, but I suspect she found more than she bargained for along the way; her own Shangri La.

Watching Sue experience China so late in her life was a bit like watching your nan go off on an adventure. It was odd to see her going half way around the world looking for a place that doesn’t really exist but was inspiring nonetheless.

The scenery is beautiful and China looks the way it does in your imagination (well in mine, at least); tranquil and small contrasted with imposing mountains and lush green valleys. It’s worth it to watch this show in HD to see the immense Tiger Leaping gorge and the crystal serenity of Lugu Lake in all their glory. The icing on the cake is the elusive snow capped mountain that Sue seeks, it’s figure takes up so much of the skyline it hardly seems possible.

Sue tends to be overly emotional but you can hardly blame her; alone in a strange country on a life changing journey, who wouldn’t get a bit teary eyed? The film is really about Sue and her search for happiness more than it is about China. It’s an interesting expedition but lacks a cultural exploration that might have explained why she’s so in love with the East.

Trendy says:

I agree with you Jack. The whole point was to live the dream and when she did it was no disappointment hence her awe. Have you noticed that when weather (mist) clears, the countryside’s colours quickly take on a brighter more colourful appearance ? Can somebody give me a tip how to see that film again. I have no Hitech equipment and live outside the shores of the UK

jack says:

don’t why some have been cynical and negative about a woman’s personal journey of fulfilling her childhood dream.

it aint supposed to an authoritative expert examination of a geographic location

Arthur says:

How did this programme get made. Who is responsible for this pretence (fakery) of information and narrative. The integrity of the BBC and its suppliers ebbs away…..

Ben P says:

This programme was awful. Johnston’s ‘inner journey’ was contrived, cloyingly sentimenental and, worst of all, just really boring. It would’ve been far better to have given some of the airtime to actually investigating the amazing places she was visiting, rather than hearing her mawkish gush.

Her endless drivel about how lucky she was just got on our nerves. You got on a plane to Hong Kong and then another to Yunnan, for God’s sake. Shut up woman!

It was also maddeningly obvious that the weather didn’t clear for her final view of the mountains, and that library shots had been used. The light was completely different and why no shot of Sue with the mountains in the background?

What a stunning waste of licence fee monies, once again.

Steven says:

I thought the it was great! Being 24 and wanting to travel with a student loan looming I feel I should do it now. You can love your work and know yourself in work but when you dont know yourself without it, then its time to expore and discover.


Trendy says:

I thought Sue’s search for Shangri La was absolutely wonderful. I didn’t intend to watch it but having spent 9 years in Asia I got caught up in one of the most enthralling BBC documentaries ever for me, after only a couple of minutes. I would like to let Sue Johnston know how it kept me glued to the TV. It wasn’t play-acting it was real feelings. Overly emotional ? NO, justifiably emotional YES. I wish I could get a copy of the film. I could watch it again and again.

Well done Sue !