This Wednesday’s film – heart-warming and beautifully judged

Breaking Away

When movies seem split between brainless big budget blockbusters and narrow gauge art house fodder, it’s tempting to harken back to a golden age of intelligent, offbeat, cinema intended for a mainstream audience. In reality, even when Breaking Away came out in the late 70s, this sort of filmmaking was becoming increasingly rare.

Directed by Peter Yates, better known for commercial hits like Bullitt and The Deep, and written by cycling enthusiast Steve Tesich, the film lovingly focuses of the minutiae of small town life, but isn’t afraid to be thrilling when staging the bike races that so obsess Dave, winningly played by Dennis Christopher. His friends (including a very young Dennis Quaid) have smaller ambitions – get a job, goof around, find a girlfriend – and the tension between dreaming and reconciling is the backbone of the movie. Best of all is Paul Dooley, frustrated by his idiot son that won’t get a proper job, yet smart enough to understand why it’s important he aim high, and the film is at its best when exploring the relationship between them in a way that is authentic, heart-warming and beautifully judged.

Although cycling enthusiasts will certainly get much out of this film, it’s not really the point of it. Dave’s dream could have been about starting a band, or opening a restaurant, or climbing a mountain. It’s the joy of watching him quietly go about the business of what he loves that is so engaging, and how infectious that joy is to those around him.

Diss Cyclathon is this coming Sunday, so this screening is our contribution to celebrating all things cycling!

By David Vass