Leave it to filmmaker Gus Van Sant to make a film about a hopeless drunk who becomes a quadriplegic into a story that’s funny, dark, sad, sweet and even sort of inspirational.
Van Sant has been one of the most interesting American filmmakers for decades with an eclectic body of work (Good Will Hunting, To Die For) that is usually a little offbeat, often visually arresting and always interesting. […] Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot opens with John Callahan, in a wheelchair but able to use one hand to operate it (which he does, usually at high speed), recounting to a support group about the final big booze-up that left his body a shattered wreck. It seems like it’s going to be a downer, but in Van Sant’s hands, the tale is actually darkly and hilariously funny.
It takes a while for Callahan to find his way forward (and put the partying behind him) and he does so halting and fitfully by discovering his muse as a cartoonist, a very sardonic one. Joaquin Phoenix is always a watchable presence on screen and he invests himself wholly and deeply in the role of the real-life, late cartoonist John Callahan, a man with a lot of pain as a result of childhood abandonment who discovers a passion for living, abetted by a wickedly subversive sense of humour. In short, it’s a really great performance that feels natural and never needlessly invokes our pity.
Bruce Demara, The Toronto Star