The real shame of this film is how it absolutely squanders such a great angle on making an Olympics documentary. The idea to follow twelve first time Olympians on their journey to the games should have been a slam dunk. It’s inherently interesting! Unfortunately, through an incredibly awful combination of style and approach this is an absolutely abominable film that fails to achieve any of its goals. What an unfortunate end to this journey.
Caroline Rowland, the director, should permanently have her ability to use slow motion taken away from her. As a tool, especially for showcasing athletic performance, it’s invaluable. When used constantly, like for entire segments of the film, like even for shots of the crowd, it is maddening. Every shot in this film is somehow wrong. Always too close, or too far, or too slow, or too off kilter.
The entire thing plays like one long trailer, or a music video, or an inspirational motivation piece for the most boring company quarterly film ever. It never settles into anything like a rhythm, instead moving from clever shot to clever shot for the entire running time. To add insult to that injury, the entire film is scored by awful generic pop music, with the lyrics being way, way too on point for the situations they are playing behind.
The film takes the tired old Greenspan formula and manages to make it even worse. Like if someone watched the ten previous Greenspan documentaries and asked the question “what if we focused even less on sports, but didn’t add anything else to take its place?” None of the events of these twelve Olympians is shown in a way that they can be meaningfully understood. Half the time we have to literally infer what the outcome even was. There’s nothing about the games as a whole, but there’s also nothing that really explains or covers the athletic achievements of these specific people. It’s all so pointless.
The film is all setup, but not even good setup. We somehow learn too much and also not enough about these people. Like really minor and trivial details, but nothing about how they actually feel about being at the Olympics for the first time. What was the trip like? What is the place like? What is the experience actually like? Instead we get the vaguest of platitudes and ever more insipid music.
I cannot believe how much I didn’t enjoy this film. It’s really sad, because it’s the final stop in an absolutely incredible journey. These films, and I watched the first one almost three years ago, have been such a joy to experience. Even the ones I didn’t like. Even this pile of mostly garbage. This set is a treasure, one that we are so lucky to have. I’m already so sad it’s all over.