Quick Hit: A film that captures the true spirit of running while maintaining a story that has a few too many plates in the air.
Films based on books can be really, really good. Some of it depends on how well the director, writers, actors, and those other that are involved understand the content of the film. It also depends largely on how much of the book you try to adapt. 1 Mile To You is a film that was adapted from the book Life at These Speeds, and was a smaller independent film that I had the pleasure to watch at the Tivoli this week. It features Billy Crudup, Tim Roth, and Graham Rogers (Quantico regular).
Rogers plays Kevin, a runner at a small rural high school. The film quickly paints him as confident, proud, and essentially happy with his life. Not much time is wasted before we get to the main plot device – the bus, which Kevin has neglected to take home, that contains his coach (Roth), his girlfriend, his friends, goes over the side wall of a bridge. Everyone dies. Kevin is left alone, and is soon transferred to a different school because there aren’t enough people in his grade left to justify having it open.
Once at his new school, Kevin is recruited by happy-go-lucky, slightly hippy Coach K (Crudup). Though Kevin shows some reluctance to run, he does so anyway, and finds that when he runs his fastest he sees images of his dead friends and coach. It’s a bit jarring at first, but eventually he finds a way to channel this into faster times on the course. There is also the presence of a new love Henny, played by Lianna Liberato. She essentially corners him, stalks him, and he creepily returns the favor at times by showing up to her house in the middle of the night.
As I stated in the “Quick Hit”, there is a lot of side paths in this movie. I can tell it tried to keep nearly all the characters in the book present in the movie. From a sleazy principal, to a recruiting coach, and a sometimes present, sometimes vacant football player, there is also the love interest story, friends of deceased parents, and a running rival. It’s a bit too much most of the time, and I think the film would have been better served to focus on some of the excellent bits of filming it had going for it.
Several things make this a movie worth watching. First, the running scenes feel true to racing. Many of you may not believe this, but once upon a time I was on a cross country team, and also a track team. I was never the fastest guy out there, as Kevin obviously is, but there is a kinship that runners share with anyone that is brave enough to run a race simply for the joy of running it. And there is a lot of running in this film – Kevin runs everywhere. There is a moment when Coach K describes running as one of the purest joys of mankind – that’s spot on.
Graham Rogers also gives a quiet performance that deconstructs the understandings of teenage grief and love. Everyone has been a teenager, and many of you reading have now become adults. It would be easy to dismiss Kevin’s love of Ellie, his girlfriend, as puppy love. But that would be forgetting how strong your feelings can be at the time of your life when your hormones are pumped to the max. That’s why it’s so devastating when you see Kevin texting his dead friends and girlfriends. That’s something that is new to this digital generation – it goes so far past getting rid of our photos, and goes into how our constant communication with those we love has been interrupted.
Crudup, who is no stranger to running films (he starred in the film Without Limits as Steve Prefontaine), gives a varied performance here, but you can’t help but love him. Often times he is the character with the most energy on the screen. It’s a bouncing manic energy, but it’s energy nonetheless. There are a few scenes that could have been buoyed up more by some of Crudup’s natural charisma.
Some of the things that didn’t work for me were alluded to previously. For one, I thought the romance between Henny and Kevin was extremely forced. I understand that teenagers often lose their filters, and I also understand that sometimes those same hormones I spoke about can make you do things that are a bit crazier from a third person, audience view than they seem in your head. So it makes Henny at times seem extremely pushy to get to a young man who lost most of his world earlier in the movie. That doesn’t mean that Rogers and Liberato don’t have chemistry. They both portray a wanting that is often lacking between Hollywood movie stars, and at times their interaction takes me back to some quiet chemistry in movies like Casablanca and Rear Window.
Overall, I ended with a positive view of the film. I think it had portions it could have improved upon, but was a very solid story. There are also a lot of visuals in the film that worked well, and was solidly performed by its actors. I’m going to give 1 Mile To You a “B”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"