In a normal year, The Climb is a movie that might’ve escaped your notice. It’s a clever twist on a buddy comedy.
In a normal year, The Climb is a movie that might’ve escaped your notice. It’s a clever twist on a buddy comedy.

You’ve never encountered a movie like this

The Climb is one of those movies that would've escaped your notice in a normal year.

If there's one advantage to the perilous state of the cinema industry, it's that the lack of blockbusters is giving underrated indie films a little more room to breathe.

This odd little film, a clever twist on a buddy comedy, is one of those films - and it would've been worth digging around for even if it was up against Bond or a Marvel movie.

It's captivating, laugh-out-loud funny and punctured with moments of pathos that ground some of its more absurdist leanings. And you never really know where it's taking you.

The Climb actually premiered at Cannes almost 18 months ago, where it was screened in the Un Certain Regard section, before travelling the circuit to prestigious festivals including Telluride, Toronto and Sundance.

Starring Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin, the pair also wrote the screenplay with Covino directing while supporting stars include Gayle Rankin (GLOW), Judith Godreche (The Spanish Apartment), Talia Balsam (Divorce) and George Wendt (Cheers).

 

The Climb was well received on the festival circuit
The Climb was well received on the festival circuit

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Mike (Covino) and Kyle (Marvin) are best friends and have been since their school days. On a biking trip in France, Mike confesses to Kyle that he slept with Kyle's fiancé Ava (Godreche).

As he drops this little truth bomb, Mike picks up his pace while Kyle struggles. Mike's admission of betrayal is mixed in with his "you got this" encouragement to Kyle while the cuckold responds with a justified "f**k you".

That opening is a perfect distillation of the men's complex friendship - of treachery, repulsion, love and support. That uneasy balance is the special sauce of The Climb and it's deployed so well.

The relationship unfolds over nine scenes, each a moment in their evolving friendship, while introducing other characters including Kyle's family and his new (but also ex) girlfriend, a tempestuous and imposing Marissa (Rankin).

 

Gayle Rankin, Kyle Marvin and Michael Angelo Corvino in The Climb
Gayle Rankin, Kyle Marvin and Michael Angelo Corvino in The Climb

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Mike, a lost soul with great love for Kyle but also a great capacity for self-destruction, is played with commitment by Covino. Covino really puts him through the wringer, including repeated physical distress as someone that other people really want to punch.

Kyle is seemingly the more passive half of their friendship, and yet his repeated forgiving of Mike doesn't make him a frustrating character, rather an extremely compassionate one.

The film is an exploration of male friendship, but Rankin's character isn't there to just serve the main story, and the way the film slowly reveals the core of who she is pays off really well.

It's difficult to classify The Climb as a comedy or drama or even a dramedy. It has its own tone where it's often darkly funny, occasionally goofy and then sometimes breaks off into musical interludes with accordion players or a grave-digger choir.

A later wedding scene evokes The Graduate, but it doesn't feel derivative or like a smug wink-wink at the audience.

Corvino and cinematographer Zach Kuperstein shoots each scene as mostly one take, for example, a long, weaving shot through Kyle's family home at Thanksgiving is masterfully choreographed as the camera finds pockets of extended family and conversation while still maintaining story focus.

It's never disorienting and feels effortless even though you know the work it must've taken to pull it off.

While The Climb is often affecting, it's never sentimental. It's very possible, you've never encountered a film quite like it.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Climb is in cinemas now

Share your movies and TV obsessions | @wenleima

Originally published as You've never encountered a movie like this



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