The Boat Race rows into view in Rome
by Boyd van Hoeij
Belgo-Luxembourg co-production The Boat Race [+see also:
film profile] premiered in the Alice in the City section of the Rome Film Festival today. The film is the fiction feature debut of Belgian director Bernard Bellefroid.
The film tells the story of 15-year-old Alex (Joffrey Verbruggen, from Fien Troch’s Unspoken [+see also:
film profile]), a fervent competition rower who lives with his loser father, Thierry (Thierry Hancisse), with whom he occasionally shares supermarket refill duties.
Despite the fact Alex’s body is his most important tool as an athlete, his father doesn’t shy away from physically harming him. Since Thierry is the only family member that provides for him (a half sister slams the door in his face when he asks for help), he is stuck with his violent parent whether he likes it or not.
Problems pile up when a new boy arrives at rowing training, Pablo (David Murgia). Both are very competitive, and to quell their reciprocal nastiness and uncalled for acts of teenage bravado, the trainer (Sergi Lopez, in an extended cameo) literally puts them in the same boat.
Bellefroid, who wrote the screenplay with David Lambert, credibly sketches the two very different milieus – a difficult home, competitive athletics at an early age – that coincide in the person of Alex. But the events that shape his life are a tad predictable, and though the actors are very good, the characters they are playing are not particularly distinctive.
The film, shot in and around Namur and in Luxembourg, looks impressive, and cinematographer Alain Marcoen (the Dardenne brothers’ regular DoP) does a great job of conveying the extreme fatigue and excitement of competitive rowing.
The film was produced by Artémis, Samsa Film and Liaison Cinématographique, in association with RTBF and backing from the Luxembourg Film Fund and Eurimages, TPS Star, Ciné Cinéma and the MEDIA Programme of the European Union. International sales are handled by Pyramide International in Paris.