'The Climb' Shows The Hard Work of A Good Bromance Makes the Downhill Moments Worth It
December 21, 2020
The bromance has long been examined on the indie movie scene and The Climb absolutely owes a debt to the Duplass brothers, and even broader pieces like I Love You, Man. That said, The Climb is an achievement that stands all on its own. Stemming from a short film made to pitch the feature version (previously featured on Short of the Week), The Climb examines the relationship between Mike and Kyle (played by Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin respectively).
The pair met making commercials in New York City and became fast friends when they learned they had similar taste. They started chipping away at moving toward the feature space, making sketches and shorts together whenever they could. Covino helms The Climb as director and has made a mark with a distinct style as the movie jumps gracefully between its giant expanses of time; and moments of crisis where the bromance breaks beyond what a reasonable person would consider repair, all while still managing to embrace love and friendship whether deserved or undeserved.
In each new time period the actors weave their crisis into a careful dance of dialogue and visuals that sometimes feels like a magical single shot, and adds an unsettled sentiment of pain, awkward laughter, or heartbreak that always seems to be lurking around the corner. To ensure each vignette could both stand alone and advance the larger narrative, the pair set themselves some ground rules while writing.
“We made sure every five pages something was happening that drove the story forward. Each of the vignettes also had its own arc in a sense,” stated Marvin.
Covino continued: “We gave ourselves interesting limitations. We knew that the scenes had to happen in real time. If a scene was taking place in a cemetery or a household at Thanksgiving, there could be no time jumps in the scene. We wanted to create a feeling of uncertainty about what was going to happen, and each scene has a revelation for the characters. The environment that the characters were in would also affect and inform the scene, or somehow put pressure on the characters.”
With no spoilers, the ground rules the two laid for the scene work created incredibly compelling content — putting three frenemies on a ski lift, or two best friends trapped at a bachelor party while ice fishing in a tiny shack on a sheet of precarious ice, and you have an automatic recipe for conflict and potential disaster.
The original short does this incredibly effectively as well, and serves as an attention-grabbing opening. Kyle and Mike attempt to climb a hill on their racing bikes — Mike outfitted in perfect Italian racing gear, and Kyle chubbily and out of breath trying to catch him physically, mentally and emotionally the whole way up, while Mike reveals a life-changing secret he’s been holding on to on the precipice of Kyle’s wedding. The constant boiling pot of tension is incredibly fun to watch, and truly brings new meaning to “a watched pot never boils.” The pair effectively steam up the screen with their painfully awkward scenarios constantly bubbling to the surface, ready to boil over at any second.
Another caveat the pair gave themselves was that Kyle and Mike’s meetings would intersect in a moment of crisis in one of their lives.
“That’s the most interesting time to see a character,” mused Marvin.
“But we also left out certain pivotal moments like a kid being born, and instead we tried to jump around to less obvious moments in a crisis thinking that’s a more interesting time to be with them.”
And it works marvelously as the aftermath of the creation of a conflict can be just as juicy, particularly watching two men whose chemistry is constantly both delicious and dangerous.
Of course no bromance film is complete without some external threats to the coveted relationship, and perhaps the best threat in the film is encompassed in Marissa (played by Gayle Rankin), whose sideways glances can both unsettle and captivate a viewer all at once. As Marissa comes into Kyle’s life, it’s hard to tell if she will be the best or worst thing that ever happened to Mike; not making her a clear antagonist or traditional romantic interest. This is another area where Covino and Marvin excel in the realm of unsettling comedy. They love to live in the grey area — where people are not clearly right or wrong, and arguments that seem, in the moment, to possibly define a relationship for a lifetime seem much less consequential once in the rearview.
It’s no wonder the filmmakers have arrived at a relative comedic masterpiece with The Climb. They’ve been at it together for many years, always making time to continue to make short film pieces, but Covino stated this one was always meant as a blueprint for a longer piece.
“I love short films that are under 10 minutes, and hit you in the face, and then you’re done. If you’re making one as a proof of concept, spend as little money as possible and save as much money as possible for the feature, and figure out how to showcase your talents and abilities.”
The talents and abilities of Covino and Marvin come full circle in this film. The movie’s circular structure ends where it begins, but with a fresh perspective on friendship, love, and how to ride a bike. While much of life can feel like a climb, sometimes it's the moments where you just get to glide that are the best — but Covino and Marvin remind us the gliding would never feel as good without the climb that came before it.
Written by: Lindsay StidhamLindsay holds an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. She has overseen two scripts from script to screen as a writer/ producer. SPOONER, starring Matthew Lillard (SLAMDANCE), and DOUCHEBAG (SUNDANCE) both released theatrically. Most recently Lindsay sold PLAY NICE starring Mary Lynn Rajskub. The series was distributed on Hulu. Recent directing endeavors include the Walla Walla premiering (and best screenplay nominated) TIL DEATH DO US PART, and the music video for Bible Belt’s Tomorrow All Today. Lindsay is currently working on an interactive romcom for the production company Effin' Funny, and a feature film script for Smarty Pants Pictures. Lindsay also currently works as an Adjunct Screenwriting Faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. You can follow her work here: https://lindsaystidham.onfabrik.com/