Unless you’re a snowboarding aficionado you probably won’t have heard of the half-pipe: a U-shaped, deep snow trench with 22-foot walls on each side. Snowboarders take flight into dizzying 180-degree turns, then land perfectly. Except sometimes they don’t. For Olympic medal contender Kevin Pearce, a life dedicated to pushing the boundaries of the possible was left hanging in the balance after a horrific training crash.
Drawing on intimate footage of the Pearce family confronting these traumatic events, director Lucy Walker has assembled one of the great sporting docs – partly because its scope extends beyond the wintry slopes. On the one hand, it shows how risk-taking athletes are their own worst enemies in sports driven by audiences and sponsors towards ever more dangerous spectacle. Yet its unfolding story also takes unexpected pathways, exploring family bonds versus individual responsibility, and the challenge of acceptance in the face of unkind fate. Don’t be put off by the jock-ish ‘extreme sports’ subject matter, this is an insightful, deeply affecting journey of emotional discovery beyond the thrill of speed and the roar of the crowd.