This electric time-lapse portrait of three skateboarders dropping into manhood bears all the hallmarks of its executive producer Steve James (Hoop Dreams): empathetic, unsentimental and profoundly involving.
First-time director and natural born cinematographer Bing Liu turns his camera on himself and his two closest skateboarding buddies in this riveting time-lapse portrait of boys becoming men. Bing, Zack and Keire bonded over a shared love of skating as kids.
Liu showcases his euphorically shot boyhood skate sequences throughout, but only ever as a means of revealing more of his subjects’ evolving psyches; skateboarding is a triumphant respite from the trio’s turbulent home lives, each of which, it transpires, was dominated by an abusive father figure.
Liu watches himself and his friends grow up to grapple with these traumatic pasts. Their unguarded intimacy, achieved through years of reckless abandon together, falters tellingly as adult responsibilities press in. The film’s deepest tension emerges in anarchic ringleader Zack.
The self-destructive bravado that made him so charismatic in the skate scene is beginning to fester ominously within his own family. By the time we reach a confrontation, Minding the Gap has bloomed into one of the year’s great documentaries, an intensely revealing meditation on masculine self-imaging, escapism and the tortuous paths to exorcising violence absorbed in childhood.
“Bing Liu’s debut feature offers tender stories of a group of Rust Belt skateboarding boys as they become men and have to deal with the troubles that a board and your friends can’t solve. There haven’t been many better documentaries about sensitive masculinity; there’s a beautiful lack of sentimentality to Bing’s depiction of time passing too quickly for comfort.” — Charlie Philips, The Observer