HBO's The Crash Reel: The 'Definitive Film On Brain Injury'
There's never been a documentary like HBO's
"The Crash Reel," which debuts Monday at 9 PM before coming to
theatres later this year.
And that's exactly the point, says director Lucy Walker.
A brain injury "is such an insidious injury," she told me when we
spoke last month. "It's physical and it's mental and it's social
and it's practical. It affects everything."
But not many filmmakers have tried to capture that breadth, or
used pro sports as a backdrop. That's one reason "The Crash Reel"
stands apart, detailing snowboarder Kevin Pearce's rise, fall, and
"I don't think there's been a film like this before," Walker
added, noting that one recent reviewer called her documentary "the
definitive film on brain injury."
Having screened the movie, I'd absolutely agree. Although Walker
had an advantage: She basically got to make two films in one.
"The Crash Reel" first tells the story of Kevin Pearce, rising
young star of pro snowboarding. And that arc - which takes up about
30 minutes of the documentary - is often thrilling, with stunning
scenes of snowboarding tricks set against a fantastic
We meet Pearce's family - a father who founded a well-known glass
company; a mother who has a PhD in education; and three older
brothers, including one who has Down's syndrome. We see Kevin's
pro-snowboarder pals (or FRENDS, as the group ultimately brands
themselves; there's no "I" among friends, they make a point to
stress). And we watch as Pearce separates himself from the pack,
moving up the medals podium and, increasingly, standing on top of
"This is not Shaun White," read one ESPN Magazine headline from
January 2009, "but Kevin Pearce might be just as good."
Yet the movie builds to a disturbing moment that was teased in its
first few minutes: When Pearce's ill-fated attempt at a technical
trick called a cab double cork leaves him in a coma and at a rehab
hospital for months in 2010, even as his friends and rivals go on
to the Olympics.
And that's when "The Crash Reel" becomes the story of Kevin
Pearce, recovering survivor of traumatic brain injury. We meet
Pearce's doctors, who explain the permanent damage he's done to his
memory and vision, and the risk of another blow to the head. We see
Pearce's family in a new light, as caregivers and protectors. And
we watch Pearce relearn how to walk, and talk, and - he hopes -
That arc, which takes the balance of the film, captures and
condenses Pearce's arduous years-long therapy. And unlike Kevin's
globe-traveling exploits as a pro snowboarder, it's the story that
most TBI sufferers and sympathizers can relate to - which is why
they're turning out in droves for the movie.
References and further information