“The Climb” is a type of male relationship story that tackles the ideas of masculinity in a rather unconventional way. The story follows two friends Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) and Kyle (Kyle Marvin) over several years in their lives. We follow their trials and tribulations of marriage, affairs and the arguments they face along the way. Shot in chapters, the film follows long takes that really allow us to live in the more awkward moments of these characters. Directed by Covino and written by both him and Marvin (who are real-life friends), we get a film written with blunt honesty. Sometimes that can be incredibly funny and other times uncomfortably funny when you realize you’ve made some of the same mistakes.
The real beauty of the film comes in the writing of these people having the conversations no one wants to hear. An opening sequence following the two men on a bike ride where Mike reveals a shocking revelation to Kyle about his relationship. I won’t spoil what this reveal is, but it sets the stage for the type of humor we get. You can tell the mutual love between these two people because you know the flaws they can call each other out for. It is the type of humor that people like Will Ferrell and even someone like Adam Sandler flirt with, but never really accomplish. They are definitely the focal point of the film, but being surrounded by an interesting array of supporting characters adds a lot of heft to the material.
Made up of mostly unknown actors, there is a realism in everyone surrounding our leads. Having these unknowns really sell some of the more audacious humor that wouldn’t work if it was more well-known talent. A particular moment involving the explanation of something to Kyle’s grandmother, which includes some risky material, is incredibly funny. That is due to the delivery being from people who feel like real human beings. In these moments while the film is considered a narrative feature, it plays like watching a documentary. That combined with the film's use of long takes, allows us to really sit in these awkward moments that are quite funny. What pains me are some of the more unfortunate moments involving the meanness of certain characters.
This includes one of Kyle’s later love interests (who he eventually marries) named Marissa. Played by actor Gayle Rankin from “Glow," she is quite dark, but funny in the role. Particularly in her wedding sequence, she stills every moment she’s in the frame. Like her and several other supporting characters, there’s an unfortunate aggressiveness that comes off quite unappealing. Particularly in the films later half, the more “humorous” moments didn’t land for me in the way intended. You see the intent being to deconstruct the inappropriate ways we sometimes act with those closest to us, but it comes off as overly scripted. In doing so, it takes away from the realism that’s earlier established by the offbeat and funny moments.
“The Climb” shows a lot of promise for both Covino and Marvin as filmmakers and even Covino as a director. As well-fleshed out and honest characters, as performed and written are, I wanted the supporting players to be the same. This is a film that has such truth in its storytelling and honesty in its camera work, that I wanted it to have a well-rounded sensibility. Without it, it ends up coming off as more manufactured than you can tell was intended. There’s no denying that there’s an unabashed sweetness in the third that breaks the toxic satire early on. When this hits your streaming markets, I definitely recommend giving this unique film a watch.