By: Trevor Chartrand
Based on a short film of the same name, The Climb was written and performed by Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin. Covino also directed the film, which chronicles the life and times of a dysfunctional friendship over the course of many years. In the film, Kyle (Marvin) and Mike (Covino) are long-time best friends who slowly drift apart – and then back together again – after Mike admits to sleeping with Kyle’s fiancé.
The story is told through a series of chapters, with each chapter taking place a few years apart. In each of the segments, we meet Kyle and Mike at a new place in their lives, and we see a series of defining moments in their relationship.
The tension and drama in The Climb has a lot of interesting potential, but the film is too silly to be taken seriously, and yet too somber to be considered silly. In other words, the film is essentially tone-deaf, wavering back and forth between a heartfelt, tragic drama and a bizarre dark sitcom. Either approach could have worked, but the filmmakers instead decided to go with both. Moments of ‘Seinfeldian’ levity seem forced and out of place in this dramatic story, but at the same time intense character conflicts don’t always fit in to this broad comedy. With inconsistent dialogue and actors really hamming up the ‘jokey’ parts, it’s easy to become detached from such an uneven film.
There’s a gimmick to the cinematography as well, with the various chapters of the story being shot using a series of highly choreographed long takes. The fluidity of the camerawork is something to behold, as is the dance the cast and crew must have crafted to create the polished final product. The performances also have a chance to shine with these long takes, with most sequences playing out much like live theatre. A few of these shots tend to be flashy and the visual style does draw attention to itself, but it never feels unearned or unjustified in the narrative. Even the film’s simpler shots – including a static long take on a ski lift – are truly moving, with the actors’ natural rhythms driving the film for extended periods of time.
With the exception of hitting a few of the jokes too hard, the cast does an exceptional job, especially with the tense and weightier material. Marvin’s portrayal of the lovable, naïve Kyle is heartbreaking – he’s a guy too nice, or too polite, to stand up for himself or speak his truth. His positivity is juxtaposed with Covino’s character, a much more sinister, selfish kind of guy. The two of them have an effective natural chemistry together – possibly a reflection on their real life relationship, as writing partners, spilling over into the material.
Overall, The Climb depicts the uphill battle of friendship with a graceful, visually-alluring style. Much like cycling up a mountain, real relationships are built on treacherous terrain. And in the same way, this film has its own share of peaks and valleys; but seeing The Climb through to the end, to the top of its mountain, is undoubtedly worthwhile.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor