This movie desperately needs a plot and characters and a script... and direction and editing.
Let me start by saying, I liked "Dogtown and Z-Boys", and was looking forward to seeing a gritty skater drama. "Sk8 Life" has a bunch of skating action (some of it pretty good) but the rest of the movie is so bad that it's unwatchable. The dramatic crux of the movie is spelled out by the main character Kris: he is going to lose his house. Why? Because they can't pay the taxes, and the neighbors have complained to the tax-man. Why does this matter? Because apparently this is the only flophouse in all of Vancouver where itinerant skaters can find a couch to sleep on. The real problem is that this key dramatic point is uttered by the main character as exposition. This is the cardinal sin of story telling: he tells us, instead of showing us. That problem is inherent in the entire movie. In fact, the movie really just strings together a bunch of skater action-sequences with repetitive exposition. I mean repetitive. There are only three conversations that happen in this movie, over and over: 1) "We/You are losing the Crash Pad? Bummer. Let's go skating." 2) "I hate shooting video of skating. Let's go skating." 3) "I'm too old/lost my touch/cut my Mohawk. That sucks. Let's go skating." Repeat. Ad infinitum. No character arcs, no plot development. When characters stop skating and start talking, they inevitably mumble one of the three lines above. Nothing is ever on the line between these characters they don't want anything, and even when the setup provides the opportunity for dramatic conflict, it's ignored. When "conflict" between characters erupts, we don't buy it and don't care, because it's just two people yelling at each other. The exposition is not only un-dramatic, and repetitive, it goes on way too long. Nothing would have been lost if this movie were cut in half. It would still have all the same dramatic problems, but it wouldn't be so interminably long. As for acting, Kris (the lead) has a good screen presence. If he was given something dramatic to strive for in any scene, he would have been interesting to watch. The rest of the cast are too young and self conscious to even fake their way through acting. The poor performances are not really the fault of the nonprofessional actors. The screenplay and the direction fail the entire cast, by not providing them anything to do. The actors seem lost in most scenes they might have words to say, but nothing in their scenes "raise the stakes". They can't focus on what their character wants, and they can't react to other characters wanting something different, because these elements don't even exist in the script. The overall impression I am left with is having watched someone's home movies painful, badly acted home movies. I was shocked to see that this movie got Telefilm Canada money, and was at Sundance.
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