* * 1/2
The straightforward, casually charming MAMIL elegantly bets on the future of content as ‘niche’. That theory goes that if you don’t really have the resources – or the ambition – to produce something to satisfy everyone, then go for a highly targeted market. MAMIL is unlikely to generate much audience outside the Middle Aged Men In Lycra (MAMILs) that are the film’s subjects, but that audience will find much to enjoy, not least of which is approbation. MAMIL celebrates the MAMIL’s right to be.
The film is structured according to the textbook, bouncing between three countries (Australia, the UK and the US) and within them, various small cycling groups. It cycles (sorry!) through themes neatly and somewhat predictably, among them the sport’s expense, risks and injuries, impact on relationships and family, travel, competitiveness, the homogeneity of the community (it’s as white as it gets), cycling’s effectiveness in aiding sufferers of depression, and mateship. None of it is particularly revelatory, but a doco like this lives or dies on its characters, and the filmmakers, within the various organizations, have found some beauties. There are funny men, men with poignant stories, hard-core (and rather unlikeable) competitors, and a lot of wives, who are almost universally portrayed as long-suffering but supportive.
Ultimately, it’s about the men, not the bikes, and to a man, they’re relatable. The MAMIL in your life will see himself onscreen among them, and hopefully have a chuckle or two of recognition.
Incidentally, the filmmakers have managed to get Phil Liggett, legendary commentator of the Tour De France, to voice the spare narration, which is akin to getting (the late) Terry Wogan to narrate your documentary about Eurovision.