The Climb (2019)
Written by Michael Angelo Covino & Kyle Marvin
Directed by Michael Angelo Covino
Two men toil up a road in rural France, barely enjoying the countryside, one more slightly out of breath than the other. A secret is revealed, and suddenly the friendship crumbles. This is one of many deaths and rebirths we will see of these two guys as they rekindle their bond, only for one of them to continually stomp it out through selfishness. The Climb is a remarkable indie comedy that manages to be quirky without falling over into the cliches around this genre. The two lead actors are genuinely hilarious, and the film is masterfully shot. Many Steadicam and long takes with hidden cuts make the story feel a little more sweeping than you would expect.
The story of Mike and Kyle is told in seven chapters beginning with the aforementioned bike ride. Mike reveals a betrayal to Kyle days before his wedding that crumbles their friendship. For the rest of the film, we make some slight and some larger jumps in time. Kyle starts dating someone new, his high school girlfriend, Marissa. We get to meet Kyle’s family at Thanksgiving, where it’s revealed he and Marissa are engaged. His mother hides her disappointment, and we learn Mike has been invited for Christmas. Mike has gone downhill, a full-blown depression he’s self-medicating with alcohol. Marissa is annoyed with Kyle for being such a pushover who can’t say no, especially to someone who has broken his trust like Mike.
The audience should dislike both of these men for their apparent flaws, but the film manages to keep us on their side through perfect comedic timing and letting them be human. Mike just repeatedly messes up Kyle’s life in pretty significant ways. It’s never done out of malice. Mike is simply a selfish person who doesn’t think about Kyle when he behaves impulsively. It helps that the characters are played by the co-writers of the picture, so they have a natural chemistry. By the end of the movie, I almost saw the two of them as the couple that should be together, and in a way, they are
What is most surprising about The Climb is the amount of style put into the visuals. As I said before, there are long tracking shots that have cleverly disguised cuts to make them appear to be sprawling one takes. The opening scene follows the men as the bike, the camera moving around and between them, getting ahead and falling behind. The Christmas scene is mostly shot from the house’s exterior, eavesdropping through the windows as it follows family members around the crowded home. This isn’t just shallow filmmaking, but these shots are used for their comedic value. A walk across a frozen pond during a bachelor party ice fishing trip intentionally pulls away so that when a reveal is made, it hits with full comedic effect.
Sprinkled in our little random moments of comedy that come from supporting characters. At a funeral, an argument breaks out between a grieving widower and the gravedigger who insists this is a union protected job, and he can’t let the man use the shovel. A wedding ceremony is interrupted, and a sarcastic uncle comments from the sidelines, “This is going to be good.” Firewood is gathered at Christmas and promptly dumped on the garage floor to look through high school football memorabilia. All this orbits the very precise dynamic going on between Mike & Kyle. One gets punched down while the other does the punching. They both end up feeling bad, but neither ever seems to learn. The film works because of these two, and it makes The Climb such a welcome surprise in a year devoid of good movies.