Tuesday, July 8, 2014

4 Minute Mile: Movie Review

Good characters can't outrun heavy drama.
4 Minute Mile is the story of a teenager, Drew Jacobs (Kelly Blatz), who has nothing else in his life that’s good, except for running. He’s always been good at running, but he lost his father, he lost his mother to hopelessness and depression, and lost his brother to a world of money, drugs and crime. He’s not a happy kid, to say the least, but he does want a way out. 2014

Directed by: Charles-Olivier Michaud

Screenplay by: Josh Campbell, Jeff Van Wie

Starring: Kelly Blatz, Richard Jenkins

The movie is about his way out, so there is a plot, but it can seem a little thin with no big moment that they’re leading up to – other than running a four minute mile. The beginning can seem awfully dark and gloomy; the lighting is dark, and the film took its sweet time introducing us to all the troubled and despondent people in Drew’s life. There’s also the sense that he’s just running towards a brick wall because he’s literally from the wrong side of the tracks. There was even a scene of him running alongside train tracks. Cheesy? Yes. But there was something cute about the simple efficiency of establishing the directionless life of a kid from the wrong side of the tracks.

Drew is understandably angry and takes his anger out on his high school track team, which is not appropriate. Here, the film takes a more upbeat turn, and has Drew realize that he needs to do something to get himself to a better life. He’s going to get a running scholarship, and he knows he needs a coach to do that. Enter Richard Jenkins as a grouchy older man who has not much good going on his life and begrudgingly accepts Drew as his protégé. Some light comedic moments help get us through the typical “not understanding but will accept his unorthodox ways.”

We start getting more running scenes and the film also introduces Analeigh Tipton as a love interest for Drew. Kelly Blatz as Drew, including Tipton as his girlfriend, and Jenkins as his coach are all excellent actors. I was really impressed with Blatz’s ability to show Drew’s anger but also with a glimmer hope and optimism. He balanced those two sides of Drew (where he came from and where he’s hopefully going) really well. The running scenes were also quite enjoyable. There were two main meets he was competing at, but they were unfortunately downplayed a bit.

The film returns to its dramatic roots where more unhappiness awaits Drew at home. The dramatic elements can seem overwhelming and the film adds in an awful lot of tragedy and sadness which an otherwise inspirational sports story wouldn't have. The main character is an enjoyable one to follow and the running scenes add some desperately needed sunlight (and hope), but 4 Minute Mile is heavy on the drama and light on the inspiration.