Directed by Steve Nash & Ezra Holland
The ESPN 30 for 30 series prided itself on acclaimed filmmakers bringing to life stories from the world of sports from the past 30 years to commemorate their 30th anniversary. I have mentioned this before, but sometimes these filmmakers seemed more acclaimed than others, but there is none more of an oddity than this film and its directors. Now Ezra Holland I don’t know anything about, but the other director, Steve Nash, I do know quite a bit about, but for reasons other than his film resume. Steve Nash lead a #15 seeded Santa Clara team to beat a #2 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament. He also has played in the NBA since 1996, mostly with the Phoenix Suns, winning 2 MVP awards while he was at it. As someone outside the film world, how did Nash fare? I’d say pretty well.
When the film started, I began to wonder why this film? Why this story for Nash? It is not a basketball story. It is the story of Terry Fox, and one I had not heard before. Fox was a young man from Canada who had lost his leg to cancer at a young age. After his leg was amputated to save his life from the cancer, Fox set out to run across Canada in the name of cancer fundraising. He would run the equivalent of a marathon a day on his one leg, stopping at night to give speeches and raise money. After a slow start, the marathon picked up steam and the attention began to raise lots of money, and it also began to weigh on Terry Fox himself.
I don’t mean to place all the attention on Nash because he did have a collaborator, but his is an interesting inclusion. I can only imagine he was affected by both the inspiring story of fellow Canadian Terry Fox and the sad reality of cancer, as so many others have been affected. And those are both the aspects which make it such a great, human story. Nash and Holland carefully construct the narrative to show the trying times as well as the inspiring and it is those trying times that seem to make the whole concept, the entire journey all that more compelling and impressive. He struggled to find support in the beginning and then soon found he almost had too much.
Terry Fox’s time was being stolen from him by cancer in two ways. In one he was directly affected by the disease, losing his leg and the ability to function like everybody else. But once he started his journey across Canada, his time was stolen by the call of cancer research fundraising. It was the purpose of the marathon, but he never envisioned it would affect the race as much as it did, taking time out of his day which was to be spent running and instead obligating him to this or to that every day and every night of the week as he slept in a travel van, awaking at 4AM every morning in order to get on the road at 5. He struggled with it as anyone would, but it is this vocal displeasure which makes him real and human, which makes the story more than a fairytale.
This is not the best film in the series, but it is a solid film, especially considering it comes from an NBA basketball star and not a famed director. In many ways it is the very underdog story it is about. There has only been one other 51 minute installment where I really felt it could have been longer, but I feel this one could have benefited with more time, a little more detail spent with Fox and his family and friends. It is a good film as is, but it felt it could have been even better with some more time. That being said, one of the best scenes in the film was when the 10 year old kid followed him for a day. Like Fox himself said, that little kid was amazingly inspiring. Everyone is affected by cancer one way or another, and that does give the film an in to everyone’s heart, but it is nicely put together as well.