Hot Docs

Curl Power Review: Navigating Adolescence One Rock at a Time

5 mins read

Curl Power
(Canada, 84 min.)
Dir. Josephine Anderson
Program: Canadian Spectrum Competition


In its opening moments, Josephine Anderson’s documentary Curl Power makes it clear that teenagers and the sport of curling share some similarities. They are both overlooked and under respected.

Frequently left to navigate the path to adulthood without a clearly defined map, it can be difficult for teens to finds their place in a constantly changing world. It is even harder when they are athletes attempting to be one of a select few who get to represent their country on the global stage.

This is the reality of life for the 4KGIRL$, a five-person curling team from the suburbs of Maple Ridge, British Columbia who are striving to become Canadian Junior Curling Champions. Amy, Ashley, Brooklyn, Hannah, and Savannah are more than just teammates, they are close friends.  They share a bond that one can only get by spending hours together on and off the curling sheet.

Coached by three of their mothers, all Olympic medalists, the girls endure a strict training regiment, which even includes attending special curling camps to hone their skills, as they navigate various tournaments.   As Anderson’s camera follows the team while they endure the rigours of competition and promote themselves on social media, the audience is provided a glimpse into the various stressors that impact their personal lives as well.

The challenges of adolescence come in the form of figuring out what universities to attend, dealing with anxiety and depression, and wrestling with insecurities around their bodies, to name a few.

Curl Power may wear the garbs of a traditional sport documentary, but at its core it’s a coming-of-age film about the fleeting nature of youth. Anderson captures the hazy transition from childhood to adulthood and how life once seemed timeless to these girls.  Now the clock of reality is rapidly ticking at a discordant pitch. Being in grades 11 and 12 respectively, the girls must face the fact that youth is running out for them. Life is about to take them in different directions whether they are ready or not.

While Anderson paints an accurate portrait of teens reaching the end of adolescence, her brush strokes often feel too broad and crude.

Despite raising some pressing issues that many teens will identify with, the enormity of the challenges they face are not fully felt. Never cracking beyond the surface its curling sliders glide on, Anderson’s camera observes the girls with more of a compassionate lens than a probing one.  While the audience is privy to a few revealing moments, such as when one girl shares that her mother has been diagnosed with cancer and another confides to her mom about her body insecurities, these moments are few and far between.

Just as the fences around their lush suburban homes keep neighbours at a distance, there is an invisible barrier that keeps the audience from knowing the girls on a meaningful level.  Some speak of their fears of leaving Maple Ridge one day, but their interactions with their community is reduced to shots of them sitting in the grass or frolicking with their boyfriends by the river.  Even within their homes, one learns little about their relationship with their parents. One would assume there is an additional pressure that comes with being the child of Olympians, but Curl Power shows no interest in such discussion.

The film is more interested in presenting a version of youth that is like a dream from which the girls are worried about being awakened.

There is no denying that the 4KGIRL$ are at a crucial time of change in their lives. Much like the final rock thrown in a curling match, it’s not clear where they will end up. However, one never doubts in Curl Power that they will successfully land close to the button.

Curl Power has its world premiere at Hot Docs.

Courtney Small is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic and co-host of the radio show Frameline. He has contributed to That Shelf, Leonard Maltin, Cinema Axis, In the Seats, and Black Girl Nerds. He is the host of the Changing Reels podcast and is a member of the Toronto Film Critics Association, Online Film Critics Society and the African American Film Critics Association.

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