'Touch the Wall': Film Review

Courtesy of Touch the Wall LLC
There's too much treading water in this familiar-feeling inspirational sports doc

Christo Brock's and Grant Barbeito's documentary chronicles the efforts of swimmers Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics

Aspiring Olympic athletes are fiercely determined and competitive. That's the not-so-revelatory message of Christo Brock's and Grant Barbeito's documentary about swimmers Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce, who became friends while simultaneously training to compete in the 2012 London summer games. Resembling the sort of endless human-interest sidebars that make watching contemporary television coverage of the Olympics such a grueling ordeal, Touch the Wall offers little to justify its padded, feature-length running time.  

A certain dramatic element is provided via the two athletes' varying fortunes during the three years in which the film was shot. The veteran Joyce, a four-time Olympic silver medalist, seems to be approaching her athletic limits at the tender age of 25. Meanwhile, the talented teenage Franklin, having started swimming when she was just six months old, is clearly a star on the rise.

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Despite their obviously competitive natures, the two women form a strong bond while training together in Colorado, marking the film's most involving aspect. It's otherwise a fairly routine account of the strenuous efforts involved, from Franklin's training method of sitting in a bathtub filled with ice to her turning down prize money and lucrative endorsement offers.

Along the way, commentary is provided not only by the swimmers themselves, but also from such figures as Franklin's highly supportive father and Olympic champion Michael Phelps. Less illuminating are scenes of Franklin attending her prom and Joyce hanging out with her boyfriend.

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It all culminates, naturally enough, with footage from the Olympic games, during which — spoiler alert for those who are not passionate fans of the sport — the tall, broad-shouldered Franklin won five medals, four of them gold, setting a variety of world records along the way, while Joyce went home with none. We're then privy to a scene in which Franklin celebrates her victory by having the Olympic logo tattooed on her backside.

Despite the filmmakers' effort to bring urgency to the proceedings via the now-cliched countdown of days leading up to the Olympic trials, Touch the Wall is woefully short on compelling drama. The inherent likability of its two central figures notwithstanding, the film mainly makes their quest for Olympic greatness seem distressingly banal.

Production: Touch the Wall LLC
Directors/producers/directors of photography: Christo Brock, Grant Barbeito
Screenwriter: Christo Brock
Editor: Daniel Gradilla
Composer: Marco D'Ambrosio

No rating, 101 minutes

  

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