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Stunning little movie - more about a battle with depression than about cycling per se. My favourite of 2007.
on January 13, 2008
The Flying Scotsman seems to polarise Amazon buyers, and those expecting a rip-roaring cycle-racing story are clearly frustrated by the actual drama, which is of a driven individualist who, using a home-made bicycle (even using parts from a washing machine) breaks the world's endurance record in a time trial that had cyclists everywhere in awe. Who was this man we'd never heard of?
But the cycling exploits, which are as much about the loneliness of training and the head-butting frustration of dealing with sports officials, takes Obree to the point of suicide, and a long wrestle with manic depression. On this note, the film is unbelievably authentic, and there's a scene - actually when Obree is being feted by fans - when you can tell his brain has, what I'd say, "just slipped off the face of his own life."
What drove Obree? It was a painful lack of self-confidence instilled by years of bullying and by precious little help from his own father, a policeman.
As with many trues stories of depression, what anchors Obree is the support of his incredible wife, and the support of his small circle of loyal friends: here compacted into one joyous character who is like a beacon in the dour, overcast Scottish social landscape inhabited by Obree. This movie absolutely nails the realities of depression, and is one of the most honest small movies I've seen in a long time. Yeah, I wept.
If you're looking for an exciting cycle race movie, no, this is not the one for you, but if you want a movie that takes you into the sometimes dark world of the human soul, be prepared for one tough ride. The glory of this story is that Obree climbed out of the worst of his depression (he still battles with it) but in doing so in this movie he shows us that human achievement can often be quite detached from one's sense of personal success. As this inspirational story shows: a world record didn't satisfy Obree's demons.
Incidentally, for those who wonder: the film was made with Obree's own input, and he actually supplies the close-ups in the beautifully shot time-trial sequences.