Written and directed by Michael Angelo Covino, The Climb co-stars Covino as Mike and Kyle Marvin, his real-life best friend and co-writer, as Kyle. Opening as the two bike a French hillside, Kyle’s best man for his wedding Mike coaches him on cadence while cycling. However, the two’s once close friendship develops a rift, owning to Mike falling in love with Kyle’s fiance Ava (Judith Godrèche). The film’s first half offers endearing and tightly wound skits anchored to the two friends—clear set-ups and punchlines and later callbacks—and further cedes to a series of events in a toxic bromance. Over the course of seven vignettes, spaced over the span of several years, they reconcile, drift apart again, and reconcile again. 

The two share a co-dependency, even through their respective flaws—Kyle is a pushover while Mike selfishly acts upon his carnal needs. While Covino reinvents the buddy comedy, he relies too easily on the inert average white guy archetype for The Climb to be anything more than ho-hum.

The film becomes cyclical, and understandably so. While Kyle later falls in love with the surly Marrisa (Gayle Rankin) and Mike must overcome his own personal tragedy, they remain in their same respective and toxic roles—giver and taker. And though Covino’s The Climb too often becomes a visual regurgitation of film school amusements: polished tracking shots with spontaneous pacing, the chemistry between himself and Marvin makes for a compelling and unique ascension of this fictional friendship. The result is a celebration of resignation, of the toxic relationships we often fill our lives with—the people we can’t quit. In that sense, even with film school trickery, The Climb offers several portraits of ordinary messed-up people who can’t accomplish the fantasies only found in a Hollywood script: the ability to truly grow and change, yet they discover a journey just as charming.

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