Friday, April 17, 2015

Movie Review: "Touch the Wall" is a cool dip into Olympic swimming

Touch the Wall (2014, directed by Grant Barbeito and Christo Brock. U.S.A., English, Color, 102 minutes) Sports documentaries all seem to run on the same formula: a subject tries to accomplish their dream, usually over adversity. It's something we've seen in "Hoop Dreams" and the 2011 Oscar-winner "Undefeated". 

"Touch the Wall" goes along these lines, but it takes on a subject rarely the focus of a sports documentary: swimming. To make it more rare, it focuses on women's swimming.

Missy Franklin was just a regular high school student when Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce came to join her age group swim team of teenagers. The two formed an immediate bond as they trained and competed together leading up to the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Franklin and Joyce are the focus of "Touch the Wall", a refreshingly upbeat look at competitive sports. The bond between the teen-aged Franklin and the 20-something, four-time silver medalist Joyce isn't filled with the competitive nature when a seasoned vet works with a rising newcomer. Joyce and Franklin get along like sisters, having fun and being encouraging to one another. 

Even when one beaks away from the training team, the bond between them starts positive and strong.

The most touching scene in the film isn't just the reaction shots of Franklin wining her slew of gold medals at the Olympics, but at the very end, when she and Joyce are getting tattoos. It shows that sisterhood is stronger than any competition that comes between the two of them.

A film could be made on Franklin. The super infectious, always smiling hero of her home state of Colorado is incredibly playful and modest, and I enjoyed this documentary in part because of her. I didn't know anything about her before watching "Touch the Wall" because I don't watch the Olympics, but I was so enamored with her as a person and an athlete that it made "Touch the Wall" a good find.

"Touch the Wall" may not have broken new ground in regards to documentary style, but the subjects are incredibly likable.

Rating: B

"Touch the Wall" is available for pre-order on multiple formats at

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