THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON FLICKERING MYTH
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★/ Movie ★ ★ ★
Sports movies are a genre of their own. When done right they can be incredibly engaging stories whose stakes feel really high. When they’re underserved they can easily slide into cheesy films packed with oversentimentality.
The Racer – or Coureur to give it its native title – is surprisingly something very different altogether. A debut feature film by Belgian director Kenneth Mercken, it tells the story of Felix Vereecke, a young cyclist on the road to his first position as part of a professional team.
In a style that almost feels documentarian, the audience goes on the journey with Felix as he chooses to join a racing team in Italy, leaving behind his native Belgium and his unaffectionate father who’s trained him. This choice of style feels like a reflection on the film’s director, whose experience as a budding cyclist was the inspiration for the story.
The relationship between father and son at times feels like it should be the central part of the story. His father seems to swing between living vicariously through his son’s successful career and being all encompassed by jealousy because he never quite got to the top of his own game.
But this is met by another storyline that centres around the pressures of being a professional cyclist and the issues of the sport’s historic drug culture. Documentaries, films and books about this issue in professional cycling are plenty and each seems to tell its own ridiculous tales of the lengths cyclists would go to to cheat the system.
But the way The Racer presents this side of the sport is done in a really personal, humanistic way. It’s not sensationalised storytelling about the highs of getting away with doping. Instead it focuses on the expectations of riders inside a professional team and the lengths they feel they have to go to in order just to keep up with other rides, let alone be the best.