film reel image

film reel image

Monday, September 25, 2023

Facing Monsters 2021 * * * Stars


In 2021's Facing Monsters, the title probably refers to the big-arse waves that inhabit the coast of Western Australia. I mean what else would we be talking about? Ogres? Yup, these breakers could swallow you whole, ascend you way deep down, and maybe injure (or kill) you. But hey, hardcore surfers don't really care. They're unmindful and borderline cray cray. They're addicted to that rush, that biting of the white cap hand that feeds them.

Facing Monsters is a documentary that doesn't quite feel like one. That's not a bad thing mind you. Sure there's archive footage here and there but absent are stuffy interviews, an overuse of title cards, and unbiased assertions. The subjects speak when they wanna speak, so natural, so off-cue, and not exacted. What actually counts is the visual palate presented by "Facing's" director (Bentley Dean). Whether he's using overhead shots, long shots, wetted close-ups, or clips following wave rider Kerby Brown barreling through the pipe, Dean's effect is indescribable (and indescribable is good). "It's where I feel most alive". Indeed.

"Facing" follows Brown and his search for the perfect wave (or the wave as Holy Grail so they say). His only brother (Courtney Brown) watches over him with hawked nuance, using a jet ski to help Kerby ditch the paddle out and catch the sweltering break.

With Bentley Dean's streamlined look and Tim Count's eerily beautiful, musical score, Facing Monsters presents a soundly numbing, viewer experience. Sometimes it's repetitive (you see the same type of billow over and over), sometimes it's suicide mission-ed, and sometimes it's foreseeable (I guess K. Brown had to get injured in the end). Oh well. As a docu that puts a rad surf monger in harm's way for no other reason than the notion of waterlogged dependence, Facing Monsters is certainly no "endless bummer".

Written by Jesse Burleson

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