Off The Rails

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Off The Rails
"Even if you've never given parkour a second thought, Day will help you to see it through fresh eyes but, more importantly, to see the boys behind the bravado and the stunts, trying to make their way in the world just like everybody else." | Photo: Ⓒ Rikke Brewer

There have been celebratory documentaries about parkour in the past, including 2019's Run Free and Jump London back in 2003 but this film from Peter Day, while capturing the adrenaline and the friendship that can spring from it, strikes a much more sombre note about the general urban malaise that leads many to give this a go and just how high risk the pastime can be. He may not directly instruct people not to try this for themselves but by the end of the film, the material will surely nudge youngsters towards that conclusion.

Day - who has produced a number of gritty urban factual series, including Scam City and Underworld Inc - expands on his BBC short Parkour Changed Our Lives (currently on iPlayer) and comes at parkour from the perspective of two young working-class lads from in Guildford, Surrey, Rikke Brewer and Aiden Knox. The short has a lot of voiceover, thankfully ditched in this feature in favour of interviews that let the lads tell their own story.

We see them in action "train surfing" in the film's opening moments, as likes and comments from a live feed scroll past. Train surfing, for the uninitiated, involves riding on top of the train, negotiating obstacles and, in the case of Rikke and Aiden, jumping off into a river on at least one occasion. It is every bit as dangerous as it sounds, with a report just yesterday of a teenager in a critical condition in New York as a result of a similar stunt gone wrong.

As 15-year-olds when Rikke and Aiden first became buddies with a third boy Nye Newman, of course, the rush of risk-taking was all part of the point. We see them in self-shot footage here, leaping from roof to roof - or flipping over hedges, sometimes making it by the skin of their teeth, occasionally hurting themselves as they progress up to bigger targets, including scaling the Forth Bridge. "All you need is a pair of trainers and a good mindset," one says, but "good" here, may not equal good for your health.

Risk taking has, of course, always been part and parcel of coming-of-age but there is an added element now of not just doing it for your mates but a wider audience, courtesy of social media channels like YouTube, where if the 'likes' climb high enough they can be monetised. This potential source of money adds to the draw of the sport and as they take on the collective name Brewman - a combination of Rikke and Nye's surnames - they seem to talk as much about "building our brand" as they do about their projects. Day doesn't labour the point but we also see how more mainstream media, like newspapers, give them encouragement by asking to stream their videos.

The film turns on the fateful day in 2017 when Nye lost his life, not train surfing but mucking about on the inside of the Paris metro, a death that was witnessed by Aiden and which sent a shockwave of grief through the group. Day continues to follow Aiden and Rikke in the years that follow as they try to process this latest trauma on the top of everything else. The director proves a careful observer and has obviously gained a lot of trust not just from the youngsters but their families as he watches how their parents try to help their kids as best they can. The end result is also well edited by Rob Alexander, moving smoothly from the more intimate interviews to the archive footage of the lads in action.

Even if you've never given parkour a second thought, Day will help you to see it through fresh eyes but, more importantly, to see the boys behind the bravado and the stunts, trying to make their way in the world just like everybody else.

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2022
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Off The Rails packshot
Two urbex and parkour-obsessed teenagers face-up to reality following the death of their friend.

Director: Peter Day

Year: 2022

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: UK


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