Glasgow Film Festival reviews: Ride the Wave | The Novice
“Big-wave riding’s for macho assholes with a death wish,” scorned Lori Petty in Point Break. Not so according to moving Scottish surfing documentary Ride the Wave (****). Following Tiree-based teenage surfing prodigy Ben Larg as he transitions from global surfing competitions for under-18s to tackling formidable-looking breaks off the coast of Ireland, Martyn Robertson’s film – which just had its Scottish premiere at Glasgow Film Festival – is admirably devoid of testosterone, focussing instead on how this quiet, thoughtful, relentlessly bullied kid comes into his own on the water.
It’s also a film about Ben’s parents, and Robertson does a good job of exploring the often heart-rending decisions they’ve had to make to support him. Which isn’t to say there aren’t gnarly wipe-outs and Rocky-style training sessions, but having followed Ben and his loving family for four years, Robertson has a bigger story to tell, one that adds nuance and humanity to the driven outsider archetype beloved of sports movie narratives.
Coincidentally, the festival’s Surprise Film delivered an almost ludicrously amped-up spin on this trope. Set within an all-women’s competitive collegiate rowing programme, The Novice (***) features a fine turn from up-and-coming actress Isabelle Fuhrman as Alex, a first year student with a monomaniacal determination to prove that hard work alone can trump simple talent.
Joining the rowing team on a whim, she becomes obsessed with besting the other girls, a physical challenge that starts exacerbating some deep-rooted mental health issues. The end result is a little Black Swan, a little Whiplash, and though debut writer/director Lauren Hadaway (who worked on Whiplash as a sound editor) finds stylish ways to immerse us in Alex’s subjective point-of-view, she loses track of the drama with an overblown and unconvincing finale.
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