By Philip Clarke
CALGARY – Childhood best friends Bing Liu, Kiere Johnson and Zack Mulligan grow up together in their rust-belt hometown, feeling equal parts cynical and disillusioned by where life has taken them. They all come from broken families who fear that they’ll repeat the same mistakes their parents made before them. It would be very easy to be the role of general society, by turning your nose up at Minding The Gap for appearing to be another run-of-the-mill skateboarding documentary. At first blush, it feels deceptively just about three young hooligans wasting away their days at the asphalt park. Like the doc’s three protagonists however, there’s far more to this story than initially meets the eye.
Minding the Gap spans several years as the boys begrudgingly grow into young men, against their better judgement. The theme of arrested development freely courses through the film’s narrative veins, and is easily one of its strongest selling points. Millennials who feel misunderstood by often being labelled as “disaffected slackers” will feel this story in so many different ways. Fans of Richard Linklater and his work will certainly find something to connect with here, on the deepest of human and spiritual levels.
Shot and directed by Liu himself, the film is drenched in genuine honesty and legitimate authenticity. By being one of the three friends, Liu presents an unvarnished look into their lives. We see the good, the bad and the ugly of what these young men go through on all sides of the equation. Had it been done by anyone else, the film would not have been nearly as effective as it is. Had it been controlled by a third party, that would have done a major disservice to the proceedings by keeping the audience at a stifling distance.
We get an in-depth and oftentimes painful look into their lives, as they continually struggle with what it means to become a real adult. Zack struggles with his relationship to his girlfriend, while becoming a father to his newborn son. Kiere struggles with the death of his father, along with wanting to get out of dodge as soon as possible, for fear of perpetually being stuck in purgatory. Liu battles with coming to terms with his own abusive father, and the effect it had on his poor mother for decades.
Minding the Gap can be summed up entirely in one of its best moments. While Kiere and his friends chill together, they smoke up and drink their ever-trusty PBR. Deep into the night, they all get together and watch Larry Clark’s controversial gut-punch of a film, Kids. That film in and of itself was a hard-hitting wakeup call to anyone who watched it, by making no apologies for its sheer abrasiveness.
Do yourself a favour and carve out some time to catch this flick, but make sure you clear your calendar first. By the time Minding The Gap is over, you’ll be so emotionally taxed and spent, you won’t want to do anything for the next couple of days.
Minding the Gap screens as part of CUFF Docs on November 30 at 9:45 pm at The Globe CinemaCUFF, CUFF.Docs, Minding the Gap, The Globe Cinema