VOD film review: Minding the Gap
On the board8
Off the board8
Ivan Radford | On 25, Mar 2019
Director: Bing Liu
Cast: Keire Johnson, Bing Liu, Zack Mulligan
Watch Minding the Gap online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Read our interview with director Bing Liu here.
The opening shot of Minding the Gap is an all-timer. Gliding through the streets of Rockford, it follows skaters as they cross roads, pavements and more – an effortless swoop under parking barriers and over curbs that rings with care-free ease.
The teenagers in question are Zack, Keire and director Bing Liu, who kept his camera rolling for over a decade, racking up years and years of amateur footage. That sincere, intimate quality defines the whole of the film’s 90 minutes, which gently pry upon a door to explore the cruelty of dysfunctional households, and the cycle of pain that can pass down through generations.
What’s remarkable about Minding the Gap is that it doesn’t seem like a documentary about domestic abuse, uncovering that ugly undergrowth in a way that’s entirely organic and wholly personal; Liu is exploring his own past as much as those of his friends, before finding that they share internalised trauma as well as an interest in skateboards. The result is a study of broken masculinity and fragmented adulthood, something that comes into acute focus as we spend time with Zack, who became an unexpected father at a young age – a transformation in his personal circumstances that prompts him to question his own suitability as a dad and the father figure that he himself had to look up to. Keire, meanwhile, is shouldering the burden of looking after his single mum, while raising money to get away. Liu sits somewhere between them, or outside of them, barely intruding upon their stories – it’s telling just how sensitive and subtle his filmmaking is that even as he talks to his mum about his own childhood, it doesn’t feel like he ever dominates proceedings.
There’s a powerful, naturalistic quality to everything we see, thanks to the film’s delicate blend of lyrical visuals, close-up recordings (including raw arguments) and moving music; its testament to how well edited the documentary is, and how strong its thematic through-line, that our three main characters feel like they’re always in each other’s pockets, even though they live apart. By the time we’re gliding through streets again on their tails, Minding the Gap becomes a quietly profound snapshot of young men trying to shrug off their concerns for a brief moment of carefree air time – a pursuit that unites them in the effort it takes to push their problems away on wheels, one block at a time.
Minding the Gap is available on BBC iPlayer through BBC Three.