Talking about R. J, Daniel Hanna’s Hard Miles isn’t difficult. Based on a true story and written by Hanna and Christian Sander, the writing duo set out to tell the story of Greg Townsend (Matthew Modine). Townsend, a part of a private juvenile facility for troubled teenagers, rallied various kids through a grueling and ultimately transformative journey. Hanna and Sander create an inspiring tale along those same lines.

The challenge in talking about Hard Miles is in the story’s impact on each individual who chooses to view it (in theaters now), what they bring to the story, and what they take away from the story. I can’t tell you that.

All I can tell you is that Hanna’s and Sander’s story is inspirational and that Modine’s performance is brilliantly hard-headed, principled, and unsure. And that’s because the four young teenagers, Woolbright (Jahking Gullory), Smink (Jackson Kelly), Atencio (Damien Diaz), and Rice (Zach Robbins), each character in the film is a component of who Greg is, was, and will be. Sean Astin (Goonies) co-stars.

The four boys are victims of their traumas and tribulations. Townsend, for his part, is no different than the four boys, as Hanna and Sander introduce elements of his personal life into the story. Modine, for his part, wants to be a part of the boys’ breakthroughs in the only way he knows how – a 1000-mile bike trip through central California and Northern Arizona, with a destination of the Grand Canyon.

All Modine and Townsend can do, is push toward the destination. The diversion makes him stop to see the forest for the trees.

Because each of the five guys, including Modine are rabble-rousers in their own right, Haddie (Cynthia McWilliams) is along for the trip, partially as the lens through which we view the guys, but also as a chaperone. McWilliams is all spice, but she’s also understanding and is an excellent bridge between Townsend and the four boys.

Gullory’s performance as Woolbright is the strongest of the quad. The young actor transitions between the gruff, tough exterior and the moments of realization. Kelly’s performance as Smink is perpetually a visual manifestation of our inner struggles. Diaz and Robbins are strong in their roles and the story balances the characters along with the others, however, the story is focused more directly on Woolbright and Smink.

Hard Miles sits next to other sports dramas such as American Flyers, though the subjects are rawer, and intentionally so, given each of their backgrounds.

Having called Arizona home for the last twenty-plus years, it’s easy to be dismissive of one of the nation’s greatest treasures. The story even remarks at one point that it was plastered on postcards, in movies (ironically), and in books.

Nothing takes the place of visiting the site, taking in its majesty, reminding us of just how small we are. Mack Fisher’s cinematography captures the essence, not only of its natural beauty, but as a testament to the boys’ journeys – the dedication and hard work it took mother nature to form the canyon over the centuries set against the few, short days it took each of Townsend’s multiple journeys with a team of struggling kids seeking a purpose, and a reminder that the destination isn’t what’s important. It’s the dedication and discipline to achieve it.

Viewers may overlook Hard Miles. For those who choose to make the journey, it is very well worth your time.