* * * *
The Climb, written by and starring Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin and directed by Covino, is very, very, very, very clever. Told over seven chapters, each containing only one or two extremely long and well-choreographed takes, it’s ambitious, witty and personal.
Mike (Covino) and Kyle (Marvin) are lifelong friends. Now (seemingly) in their late 20s / early 30s, they’re about to swap secrets, partners, and, in just one of the film’s many bold moves, physiques. We first meet them biking up a very long hill outside Nice, in France, where Kyle, it seems, is due to marry. Those plans are disrupted, and we follow the two men over the next decade or so, through many life changes and fascinating reversals.
The unbroken takes delightfully draw attention to themselves and become a big part of the fun: the camera weaves in and out of groups of people, houses, vehicles and even seasons. Elsewhere, other stylistic extravagances gleefully wave their hands for our attention: a sudden (albeit low-key) musical number, a lo-fi (albeit terrifying) action sequence. In every chapter, there is something stylistically exciting going on; likewise, the storytelling is giddily exuberant, revelling in dramatic ellipses, strange twists and well-shaped supporting characters.
This is a film that both harks back to an earlier age of American indies about male friendship (I was reminded of In The Company of Men, Neil LaBute’s 1997 debut) while also feeling fresh and unique. It seems to have been shot mainly in Colorado, itself a rare backdrop, and, here, a beautiful one. There is a strong French connectionbeyond the opening chapter in Nice; French music and references abound, and combined with the often snowy, woodsy locations, the film achieves an exoticism rarely found in American cinema. It is compelling, gently funny and constantly surprising. Highly recommended.