The Climb opens with two best friends, Kyle and Mike, riding their bikes along a winding, mostly uphill road that seems to go on forever. There are occasional moments of relaxing downhills, but overall the stretch of road continues to slope upward. You never really know what the next curve might hide until you get to it. While the film features a literal mountain that’s being climbed by two friends on their bikes, it’s also the perfect metaphor for relationships, as the two friends ride the peaks and valleys of life where many decisions aren’t exactly as clearcut in the moment as they might be looking back at them. The Climb explores the difficulties of relationships, both romantic and platonic, and does so with a dark humor that will leave you laughing.
Kyle (Kyle Marvin) is on the verge of getting married when his best friend and Best Man Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) reveals to him that he slept with his fiancée. The two fight, but eventually down the line they rekindle their friendship, although Kyle has now gotten back together with his ex from highschool, Marissa (Gayle Rankin). Mike, meanwhile, has gained weight and has become a drunken mess. And yet despite the horrible things he has done, him and Kyle still remain friends, much to the confusion of everyone around them. Their friendship even puts strain on Kyle and Marissa’s relationship as tensions rise to a possible breaking point, with both Marissa and Mike vying for Kyle’s love.
The Climb offers up an interesting and complicated drama about relationships and doesn’t sugarcoat it with any over-the-top drama, letting its characters shine and do most of the talking. Even the filming style, with long, drawn out shots, caters to them. Arguments don’t happen in these rapid, back and forth, shouting matches. They feel much more realistic. Characters pause as they struggle to comprehend what’s been said to them while the camera doesn’t cut away. They stumble to find their words, or just say the first thing that comes to their mind, even if it doesn’t make sense.
Despite the heavy subject matter, the film is surprisingly hilarious. Sometimes people have a tendency to laugh in awkward situations and that’s exactly what The Climb brings out in audiences. It’s both hilarious and devastating that Mike reveals to Kyle that he slept with his fiancée while on a steep climb bike ride because he knew he would be struggling to pedal and wouldn’t be able to catch up to him. Mike’s ability to be a fool and a terrible friend is both sad and funny, mostly because we’re not Mike’s friend, although I’m sure we all have that one person in our lives who is.
The Climb is as complex as the relationships it portrays. It’s hilarious, absurd, and sometimes even horrifying. However, there’s always that sting of truth in most every scene that grounds it in reality. There’s brilliance in its subtlety. It’s without a doubt, one of the best films of the year.