The Climb

2019 Cannes Festival Winnner – Jury Coup de Coeur (Un Certain Regard)

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Comedies are few and far between in Cannes’ usually somber line-up, so for many festival-goers, The Climb was a refreshing change of pace. Divided into six tidy vignettes, sometimes spaced years apart, Michael Angelo Covino’s directorial debut follows two average joes, Kyle (Kyle Marvin) and Mike (Covino himself), as they chart the rocky course of their friendship from one feud to the next.

Poster for the indie comedy The ClimbThe film’s compact opening sequence efficiently presents Kyle and Mike’s volatile friendship in microcosm. As out-of-shape Kyle and lean athlete Mike cycle up a steep hillside trail in Provence, Mike drops the bombshell that he slept with Kyle’s fiancée. In rapid succession, Covino escalates both strains of tension — the progressively more strenuous bike ride alongside the heated argument — heightening stakes even further when Mike gets into a road rage incident with a French driver.

With each vignette, Covino raises the bar. Each chapter opens in the middle of a new event or dilemma, and part of the fun for the audience is figuring out what took place in the intervening time. Covino and co-scriptwriter Marvin prove to be a powerful real-life duo, alternately punctuating their screenplay with enlivening comedic bursts and generally inventive narrative turns.

Yet behind the deadpan, visual gags, and slapstick, Covino and DP Zach Kuperstein possess a keen cinephile’s eye. Long Steadicam shots move fluidly through multi-room scenes, visually elevating The Climb to a level above a run-of-the-mill comedy.

Kyle and Mike enjoy a ski tripThe driving factor of Covino’s relentlessly funny, affecting comedy is neither cinematographic ingenuity, nor its tongue-in-cheek facetiousness, though these elements surely help. No, what’s most persuasive about Kyle and Mike is, simply put, Kyle and Mike themselves. Covino’s attentiveness to the intensely human factor, to the strangely magnetic pull between these two buddies, keeps the narrative from ever going stale.

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

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