BEST OF THE FEST
Minding the Gap
A few bold-faced names to watch come out of every Sundance, and here’s a major one: Bing Liu, who directed, co-edited, co-produced, shot, and co-stars in this (often uncomfortably) intimate documentary about a group of friends who discover, as one of them succinctly puts it, “We’re gonna have to grow up and it’s gonna fucking suck.” They’re teenage skater buddies, Liu included, and the way he shoots their rides (with a wide-angle lens on a roving, rigged-up camera) beautifully captures the motion and energy of the sport. But that’s just window dressing; it’s much more the story of their lives, of real tragedy and toughness, and how the most charismatic of the bunch begins a toxic, abusive marriage with his high school girlfriend, seemingly unaware of how his friends are still suffering from the emotional fallout of such upbringings. The cycles of violence and abandonment are captured with uncommon honesty, and the director’s proximity to his subjects presumably allowed them to open up in ways they wouldn’t to a stranger. But Liu has a gift for montage and a confident way with his camera, and the emotional heft of this debut is quietly overwhelming.