The Climb: Winsome indie humour (IANS Review; Rating: * * * and 1/2)


The Climb (film on BookMyShow Stream); Cast: Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin, Gayle Rankin, Talia Balsam; Direction: Michael Angelo Covino; Rating: * * * and 1/2 (three and a half stars)


“The Climb” is a ‘bromantic comedy’ that hits the road running — or cycling if you may, given the opening scene. Friends Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) and Kyle (Kyle Marvin) are struggling uphill on racer bikes. Huffing for breath, Kyle announces joyously that he is about to get married. Mike pumps in a few hasty pedals to get a few feet ahead, and then guilty shoots back the confession that he has slept with Kyle’s girlfriend — more than once.

That’s just the start to the tale, at a plot point where most bromances could be expected to end.

Covino, who makes his feature debut as a director besides starring as one of the leads, just gave generic entertainment around the buddy bonding formula a new-age spin with this indie effort.

“The Climb” brings a spot of newness to bromance on screen. For a change, an American film about best friends is not about two cops gunning for a crime lord or three friends on a crazy romp after a drug trip. For a comedy with a runtime of just 98 minutes, the film is also admirable for the way it cultivates and maintains a layered narrative.

Covino shares writing credits with the film’s other lead actor Marvin, and top on their priority list was obviously setting up the right chemistry between Mike and Kyle. To maintain a tone of humour, perhaps, they break down the story into seven chapters — that way, the writer-actor duo can pan away from a situation whenever the dysfunctional relationship between the friends starts getting too heavy for comic storytelling.

Brisk writing takes us through several engaging sequences after the opening scene ends on an unexpectedly funny note. The friendship that Mike and Kyle share is complicated, and Covino and Marvin have written the apt lines and scenes to ensure it is simplistic in the way they serve it to the viewer. “The Climb”, first and foremost, benefits from good storytelling.

While Covino and Marvin have a field day acting out tailormade roles, the character-driven film uses each of its supporting cast effectively too. Of particular note are Talia Balsam as Kyle’s mother and Gayle Rankin who makes an entry as Marissa, his high-school girlfriend and current date. Rankin gets a well-defined character arch despite limited footage as Marissa, and she executes effectively.

The film is textbook stuff on how an indie movie can be impressively shot and narrated without appearing like a low-budget effort. There is no spectacular camerawork or cinematic treatment here, and the visual appeal of the film lies in its long takes that render depth to the scenes amidst all the absurdist hilarity. The comment on friendship that the film leaves is imparted without getting too loud about it.

Although widely accessible on streaming in India a bit late in the day, you’d want to catch up with this global release of 2020 if you love discovering small, lesser-known cinematic wonders every now and then.