Kates Berlin Diary: The Crash Reel, dir. Lucy Walker
As I’m the first to admit, I’m not exactly the most athletic person and certainly have very little interest in ‘adrenaline junkie’ activities. So when I bought a ticket for Lucy Walker‘s film The Crash Reel and then found out it was about snowboarding I wasn’t sure to what extent I’d be the right audience for it…
The film is about Kevin Pearce, a winter Olympic hopeful, who we meet as he is training, doing acrobatic pirouettes in the air. The guy’s a dude, hanging with his co-dudes, they are all the young dudes. Handsome, fit and attractive, Kevin is bringing in wads of cash with sponsorship deals and appears to ‘have it all.’ Rewind to home footage of him growing up and it’s a series of You’ve Been Framed-goes-extreme clips as his daredevil young self uses a board to fly from the roof of a garage onto a trampoline. So far, so another sporting success biog.
Then one day, when trying to do a double corkscrew (look it up), there’s a thud. A heartbreaking, cinema-silencing, gut-wrenching thud. Kevin has fallen hard and lands on his face, head – it’s not clear where – but it doesn’t look at all good and suddenly there lies a broken boy. We see footage from the scene of the accident, the helicopter ride, the first few photos from the hospital bed and his brother’s harrowing account of seeing him; lying ‘like he was dead.’
And it’s here that the film becomes a testament to the human spirit, an ode to the Pearce family whose compassion and tenderness help Kevin come to terms with his journey from super elite athlete to brain trauma survivor and the subsequent realisation that Kevin wants to get back to his half-pipes even as the neurologist explains that the smallest knock could have a fatal consequence.
Walker’s compassionate treatment made me veer from tears as I watched Kevin’s personal struggle, to full blown hiding-behind-my-hands as a montage of gruesome snowboard accidents are played out in their full horror. Snowboarding ain’t for the weak at heart, and in many ways neither is Walker’s film, but the experience is an uplifting one and Kevin Pearce’s determination lingers on in the mind. It’s a great portrait of this young man; you’ll be rooting for him and his family all the way.
Sneak a peak of the film here and we’ll let you know when it’s coming to the UK.
NB: (And this is important) Lucy Walker is the most stylish director. The woman even rocks a cape.