Backwards I Review

I am not a fan of sports movies per se but with Olympic fever just starting to die down Backwards written, starring and produced by Sarah Megan Thomas and starring James VanderBeek  amongst others comes to cinemas at a perfect time.

Abigail Brooks played by Thomas has spent her lifetime trying to win an Olympic rowing medal, sacrificing friendship, love and a “normal life” along the way. When she is named an alternate on the Olympic team she quits in haste. Defeated, Abi moves back home with her widowed, workaholic mother played by the adorable Margaret Colin. Tension builds as Abi’s mother urges her to “move on” from the rowing life that Abi’s father, a coach, introduced her to. Unable to do so, but needing an immediate job, Abi seizes an open crew coach position at her alma mater, Union High. There, the head of athletics is her old boyfriend, Geoff (James Van Der Beek). Abi trains her high school rowers in an obsessive fashion, taking two girls, Hannah (Alexandra Metz) and Susan (Meredith Apfelbaum) under her wing. After the girls lose an important regional race, Abi reinvents herself as a coach, and in the process, learns to have fun again both on the water and off.

This film boasts great rowing footage and is clearly made with love and care.  The attention to detail leads me to believe that input from someone who is extremely passionate about rowing has been sought.  The cinematography on the water is breathtaking at times and enables us to become one with the racers and experience the fight to the end.  This film also does a fine job of showing us the sacrifices that hopeful Olympians make on a daily basis when they are faced with complex choices.  Where the film falters a little is in the shallow subplots which get introduced and resolved rather quickly and often in one scene.  A little less subplot with more time spent on them may have made for a more powerful experience.

Thomas has written a sweet and heartfelt inaugural movie that may have benefited from someone a little feistier in the lead role.  Her laid back style which allows us to get onboard in the first half of the movie doesn’t make for such a character arc in the second half and I found myself not quite being able to make it over the finish line with her.   The romance is predictable which isn’t a problem however, I think the film could just have done with more tension overall.  Despite that, it is great to see James VanderBeek with his puppy dog eyes.  He reminds us why the perennial teenager in us still years for a date with Dawson.

Backwards opens Friday 21 September in Los Angeles at Laemmle’s Music Hall 3.  Check local listings for show times

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