Sometimes, when we can’t get out on the waves, film (yes, specifically surfing film) is the answer to help us stay in touch with our wild sides. Whether you’re recovering from an injury, unable to take visits to suitable beaches, or simply busy for a while, there will certainly be times like this in life. and film can serve as a great retreat. This past summer I was having just such a period – kept out of the water by a couple of nagging injuries – and I found an unexpected silver lining in the much-criticized film “Chasing Mavericks,” and wanted to share it with other surfers.
I’ll get one thing straight right off the bat: this film is by no means a classic cinematic achievement, nor is it particularly original. If you visit rottentomatoes.com, you’ll find a slew of reviews ranging from poor to disastrous. But if you’re a fan of surfing, and you have an imaginative side, this film might appeal to you in much the same way that a mediocre sports film like “Goal! The Dream Begins” might appeal to a football fan – it’s just going to strike a note close to your heart. Again, it wasn’t a very popular film, but you can hopefully find it available before long in Picturebox Films or some similar streaming service (I mention this one in particular because they cycle their collection of available titles each month, and are adept at selecting films that appeal to certain niche audiences). Now, on to the film itself!
As Roger Ebert noted rather expertly (of course), “Chasing Mavericks” followed a fairly standard format for a teen coming-of-age film. The protagonist is a somewhat lost and angst-y teenage boy named Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) whose father has abandoned him, and whose mother is generally unhelpful. Jay was saved from drowning as a boy by neighbour Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler), and when he later sees Hesson riding monstrous waves – “Mavericks,” gigantic swells that come about once a decade to California – he feels compelled to join in the face.
So it goes – Hesson becomes something of a reluctant mentor and, ultimately, father figure for the teenage Jay, who sets out to learn the “pillars of surfing” so that he can conquer Mavericks, impress a girl, and find purpose.
What ensues is a familiar format. The ambitious, needy teen takes on a challenge well over his head, as the mentor helps him to improve with relatively unnatural quickness. The film is loosely based on a true story, and as such it comes across quite heartfelt and, ultimately, rather tragic. But back to my point.
If you’re just looking for a film that makes you appreciate your own ability to surf, one that makes you remember your first experiences on the waves, or a simple, familiar picture to lose yourself in if you (like me) can’t get out on the water for a while, “Chasing Mavericks” is well worth a look!