The Climb | Chicago Reader

The Climb

Previously known by the equally bad title Straight Through the Heart, this 1997 drama is a good example of a certain kind of American feature: although it's better than 80 percent of the movies that get shoved in your face, it has no public profile because there's no studio muscle behind it. Set in a Baltimore suburb in 1959, it focuses on courage—as it relates to a 12-year-old boy (Small Soldiers's Gregory Smith) who wants to climb a radio tower near his home; to a bitter neighbor (John Hurt) dying of lung cancer who wants the boy's assistance in putting him out of his misery; and to the boy's father (John Sayles regular David Strathairn), who's perpetually bullied by the local drunk because he didn't serve in the war. The script by Vince McKewin, which has some of the feeling and conviction of lived experience, tends to avoid easy effects, and the Evanston-born director, Bob Swaim—best known for his French thriller La balance and Half Moon Street—does a fine job of handling the actors and charting the movie's physical terrain. There's a hair-raising action climax and a lot of fine shading in the characterizations; I hope you're as pleasantly surprised as I was. With Sara Buxton, Marla Sokoloff, and Seth Smith.

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