Daniel, a poignant HBO documentary centering on adventurer Daniel Northcott, is available to stream – here’s what it’s about, who’s in it, and if it’s worth watching.
As 2023 draws to a close, we can look back at the year in non-scripted TV and the best entries that stand out, many of which hail from HBO. Whether it’s crime, history, or sports, the network’s documentaries often benefit from quality production, diverse subjects, and in-depth explorations.
A few notable releases include the sinister Great Photo, Lovely Life by Amanda Mustard, the shocking series about the Love Has Won cult, and the eye-opening Burden of Proof, which asks: what happened to Jennifer Pandos?
Often, those involved in the case are also the narrators, leading viewers through each detail with first-person accounts. But this is taken to another level with Daniel – here’s what you need to know about the new documentary film.
What is Daniel about?
Daniel is a documentary by Daniel Northcott about Daniel Northcott, a young man who died at the age of 29. But before he did, he documented his life’s journey, capturing more than 1,400 hours of footage as he traveled the world.
Check out the trailer below:
As per the official synopsis: “When Daniel Northcott got a hold of his father’s video camera, a lifetime of documenting the world around him began. Crafted from over 1,400 hours of vérité-style footage shot in 42 countries across four continents, Daniel is an unflinching self-portrait of a young man with an insatiable curiosity and a boundless desire to understand the world and his place in it.”
Daniel demonstrates his insatiable appetite for life, journeying across the globe and encountering beautiful landscapes, experiences, and, most importantly, people. Whenever he visited new places, he would take a small item as a memento of his travels.
As stated in a crowdfunding campaign launched before HBO picked up the story, “In April of 2007, Dan’s journey led him to a greater adventure than he had ever imagined. Despite warnings of an ancient curse, he brought home a bone from a sacrificial Mayan burial cave in Yucatán, and just months later he was diagnosed with leukemia – cancer of the bone marrow.
“When Daniel learned eight years into his film project that he had only months to live he began a race to complete his unfinished film. Amazingly, he continued to document every detail of the roller-coaster ride that followed – from the doctor delivering the crushing news to every intense medical procedure, losing his hair, and intimate moments with friends and family.”
The filmmaker left the footage with his sister, Erin Northcott, his dying wish for the film to be completed and shared with the world. And now that wish has been fulfilled, with Daniel available to watch on Max.
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Who’s in Daniel?
As discussed, Daniel features Daniel Northcott, as well as clips of the many friends he made on his travels and family members. Daniel is credited as the director of the HBO documentary, while his sister Erin serves as a producer.
Speaking to TV Goodness about what she hopes viewers will take away from the documentary, Erin said: “Everyone will get something different out of this. Some people get really into the aspect of taking a sacred object and can energy attach to you. Some people will see Dan’s relationship with his mother and me and his friends and family and say, ‘I want that. I want to mend relationships or [be] deep in relationships.’
“Some people will see him traveling and connecting with people. When he is traveling, he’s not just a tourist, he’s not just there to see it for a minute and be in and out. He’s there to really feel into the land and the earth and the people. So, I think traveling with a deeper intention connected to our travels could emerge.
“What I hope is all of that. I really want whatever’s meant for each individual viewer to come through and to hold them. Because I’ve seen people want to make various adjustments. Or they’re inspired. It’s thrilling to know that my brother’s having that reach at this point.”
She finished by saying: “He died at 29 and there’s a lot of tragedy around that for me. But maybe for him, that was enough. He really accomplished what he wanted to because he certainly felt quite complete when he died.”
Is Daniel worth watching?
Although it’s too early for a Rotten Tomatoes score, there have been a number of positive reviews for Daniel so far.
Meaww said: “The documentary Daniel ties together the hours of footage he shot to create a film that’s moving and tragic in as much as it’s the story of a young man exploring not just the world but what it means to be human.”
The Wall Street Journal’s review of the film was mixed, stating: “If one is inclined to buy into Mayan curses and possessed totems, this may be your cup of aguardiente. Otherwise, Daniel is a bewildering film, full of cracker-barrel philosophizing and Northcott’s ad-libbed aphorisms about the interconnectedness of life.”