Kyle (Kyle Martin) and Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) have been best friends since they were children, though seeing them together as adults, you may wonder how this friendship has lasted. As the film opens, Kyle and Mike are cycling up a hill in the south of France when Mike casually informs his buddy that he’s been sleeping with his fiancée. Mike purposely selected this moment when he knew Kyle would be too exhausted to react. The Climb follows the ups and downs of the unusual and often toxic friendship between these two guys over a span of many years. After Mike’s proclamation, he and Kyle have a falling out, and don’t speak for many years. Even when a funeral brings them face-to-face, things end up with them wrestling in the graveyard. While Kyle has several sisters and two loving parents (Talia Balsam, George Wendt), Mike is an only child with no other family. Kyle has moved on and has been dating childhood friend, Marissa (Gayle Rankin, GLOW) and they plan to get married. He is more than happy to never see Mike again, but his parents feel bad that Mike has no one else in his life, and invite him to join the family for Christmas. Kyle reluctantly agrees to let Mike back into his life, but it isn’t long before Mike is once again trying to sabotage his best friend’s relationship.
The Climb is a very odd and quirky film that some will absolutely love, while others will likely find it too out there, or the characters a bit too annoying, particularly Mike. There were a few scenes that had me laughing out loud, while some others just made me frustrated. In some ways it kind of reminded me of Dumb and Dumber—while these guys obviously care for one another, their relationship is so toxic, with Mike always doing stupid things to mess up Kyle’s life—it’s a wonder why Kyle keeps welcoming him back. That said, when things do go wrong in Kyle’s life, Mike is always ready and willing to help him out like a brother. These two are not really good for one another, but may be exactly what each other needs in their life.
One thing that there is no debate about is that The Climb is a technically brilliant film. The movie is broken down into seven chapters, each of which primarily plays out in one long take. The camera expertly flows in, and around each location, seamlessly following the characters as they argue or interact. The most impressive of these is Kyle’s large family Thanksgiving celebration, which starts off in the basement following a discussion between Kyle and Marissa, then flows upstairs, weaving through the first floor party guest conversations, before heading outside to the driveway where it seamlessly transitions from cars covered in leaves during the day on Thanksgiving to cars covered in snow at nighttime on Christmas, and then circles around the outside of the house, looking through the windows and listening in on the various family discussions. It felt like I was back watching 1917 with its perfectly-timed and choreographed single take sequences.
Each of the chapters is announced by a title card, fittingly named after things that children would say to one another as they are fighting—”I’m Sorry”, “Let Go”, “Thanks”, “It’s Broken”, “Stop It”, “Grow Up” and “Fine”—because Mike and Kyle often behave more like bickering children rather than grown adults. While there are some edits here and there, the crux of the film is seven nearly real-time glimpses into the current state of Mike and Kyle’s relationships. So there is a bit of a time jump between most of these chapter, with the next scene delving into the fallout from the previous one. Interspersed throughout the film are some other truly bizarre musical scene transitions that somehow simultaneously fit perfectly within the scene, but also feel like a complete non sequiturs—a cappella grave diggers singing “I Shall Not Be Moved”, a ski ballet couple performing a synchronized routine on the slopes, and a Ukrainian music trio playing a violin, guitar and accordion on a frozen lake.
I found the film to be a very odd at times, but also a fascinating viewing experience. I don’t think I truly appreciated it until I was re-watching it the second time around for the audio commentary.
I was sent the DVD for review, but the film has also been released in HD on Blu-ray and on 4K on Digital. Unfortunately, the picture quality of the DVD release leaves much to be desired. The picture is lacking a lot of detail and sharpness, making this cleverly and creatively shot film look really mediocre. The audio track fares a lot better, providing clear dialogue, and constantly making use of the surround channel to provide a fully-immersive viewing experience. This is noticeable right from the opening scene as cars can be heard as the pass by the cycling friends, or in the holiday party where you feel like you are amongst the family. The disc provides an excellent selection of bonus material, including a fun audio commentary by the stars, a Sundance Q&A with the cast, the original 7-minute short film that inspired the movie, 7 minutes of deleted/extended scenes, and nearly 7 minutes of additional behind-the-scenes footage. The DVD disc comes packed in a standard DVD keepcase without a slipcover, and no digital copy is included. The HD Blu-ray release is likely the better way to go for this release if you want a physical disc, or the 4K Digital version on iTunes, which also includes the bonus material (though it is not Movies Anywhere-compatible).
- 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 2.00:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Audio Description, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai
- Commentary with Michael Covina & Kyle Martin (1:37:45)
Stars Michael Angelo Covino (director/”Mike”) & Kyle Martin (“Kyle”) provide an entertaining commentary throughout the film. They share lots of fun and interesting behind-the-scenes stories while also talking about writing the scenes, the filming locations, the number of takes each scene took, and the technical process and movie magic involved.
- Premiere Intro and Q&A at Sundance (19:52)
After a comical introduction before a screening of the film at the Sundance Film Festival, festival director John Cooper moderates audience questions for the cast—director Michael Angelo Covino (“Mike”), Kyle Martin (“Kyle”), Gayle Rankin (“Marissa”) and Judith Godrèche (“Ava”). Some of the questions revolve around the one-take nature of the scenes, the random vignettes, the writing process, and more.
- Original Short Film (7:31)
This single-take short finds best friends Mike and Kyle cycling up a hill as Mike reveals that he’s been sleeping with Kyle’s girlfriend—the look and dialogue is very similar to the opening scene of the feature.
- Deleted Scenes (7:16)
Play All, or select from:
- Alternate Opening (1:11)
Romantic music plays as the camera slowly pans over Kyle, Ava and the rest of the extended family having an outdoor meal in France. Then it abruptly cuts to reveal that the scene is in Mike’s mind..
- Extended – Hospital (3:20)
After Kyle sees Mike making out with Ava in the hospital, Kyle worries that Ava doesn’t want to get married anymore. The doctor and nurse arrive to give Mike his prognosis, but Kyle lets his anger out.
- Extended – Kyle Strip (:58)
A more elaborate version of the scene with Kyle stripping and lip-synching to “Lullaby”.
- Extended – Coffee Shop (2:03)
Kyle arrives at Mike’s bike shop/café to confront Mike.
- Alternate Opening (1:11)
- On Set (6:34)
Play All, or select from:
- French Slates (1:05)
The slates for the 20 takes of the film’s opening scene.
- Graveyard Hits (1:27)
Various takes of the graveyard fight and brawl.
- Ski Takes (1:42)
Various takes of the cast skiing down the hill in a full tuck.
- Realtor – Full Take (2:35)
Extended cut of the realtor struggling with the For Sale sign.
- French Slates (1:05)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:12)
- Previews (3:08)
Trailers for “Nine Days”, “I Carry You With Me”, “The Last Shift”, and “Yellow Rose” play back-to-back.
The Climb is brilliantly shot and composed, making use of long single-take shots. It’s a quirky movie that is both fun and frustrating at times. The DVD picture quality leaves a lot to be desired, but the audio is excellent and the disc contains a great assortment of bonus material. For those who prefer physical media, I highly recommend picking up the Blu-ray instead of the DVD if possible. Or else go for the 4K Digital release on iTunes, which also includes the bonus material (note that the digital release is not Movies Anywhere-compatible, so it won’t port to other retailers).