Film Reviews

Review: ‘Cheer Up’

Hot Docs 2016

Patricia in air.
Courtesy of Hot Docs


Cheer Up
(Canada/Finland, 72 min.)
Dir. Christy Garland
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)

Cheer Up opens like a cross between an Abba video and an Aki Kaurismäki comedy about hapless losers. The girls in a Finnish cheerleading team tumble awkwardly to the floor and giggle whenever they try to form a pyramid. Naturally, they place last in competitions. Determined to do something about it, their coach Miia flies to Texas where she observes an almost supernaturally high-flying team practicing. She is awestruck even though the girls’ coaches aren’t that impressed. Miia learns from the Texans that you can never say you can’t, and that nothing is worse than second place.

As if coming out of a dream, Miia returns to the snowy Arctic Circle, and the doc, which plays like a three act fiction feature, settles into depicting the realities of the team’s lives. Living in a world that looks like Ikea assembled it, the cheerleaders deal with family and boyfriend issues while Miia, who hasn’t been in a relationship for a long time, connects with a problematic romance that starts online.

The film, which goes down as smoothly as vanilla ice cream, seems like it will turn Rocky triumphant, but its third act is about validating simple struggles and victories while images of crystalline snowscapes imply that the world has yet to become quite like Texas.

Cheer Up screens:
-Sunday, May 1 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 7:00 PM
-Thursday, May 5 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 7:00 PM
-Saturday, May 7 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 6:30 PM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for more information.

Maurie Alioff writes about movies for publications off- and on-line, and is a screenwriter currently collaborating on a documentary featuring Bob Marley’s granddaughter while researching other Jamaica-related projects, including a magical-realist crime story drawing on stories he hears on the island. He has written for radio, journals and TV, taught screenwriting and been a contributing editor to various magazines.

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