Needed to be much shorter but still quite heart-warming, affectionate and well made
Curt is a 49 year old man who was diagnosed with autism when he was a baby. Since deciding to take up surfing, Curt has become a mainstay of the local surfing community, being great with kids, and enthusiastic about the families that he has reached out to, who in turn have taken him into their extended family units.
This is a documentary with a character-focus, which is a very common type of short film – I guess because we all have people in our lives who have great specific stories or situations, and for those with the talent it is a good thing to bring it to the screen for those local, but also for a wider audience. In this regard Curt mostly works, because his is fundamentally an affectionately told and affecting story, and one that also offers a certain warmth at the end. We see Curt rough-housing with the kids of the families that have befriended him via surfing events, and we see him active in his own surfing community groups (described as "little league" by one organizer); more importantly we hear contributions from his parents and we understand the challenges that Curt's condition poses, and the difference that engagement in a community has made to him. The film allows us to see Curt's oddities for sure, but mostly it is seeing them in the context of being outward and being positive.
The problem with the film is that it really didn't need 17 minutes to do that, and it isn't a tight short film within that frame. The casual footage of roughhousing and surfing are good in terms of getting a natural feel and relaxed pace running through the film, however it really doesn't give us more context or information to see this material for the 6th or 7th time. Seeing it so often also introduces another factor into the film – which is that this is still a fully grown man roughhousing with children who he is not related to; the film does mention the other families who are uncomfortable with this, and it is clear from what we hear and see that there is no issue here, but at the same time there is a lot of footage of this without any comment or additional context. I did wish that if at least the film was going to spend so long making me think about the awkwardness of this situation, that it would at least cover it a bit more directly – or better still, don't let it be the main body of the film. As I said, the bigger issue for me was it just didn't need all this material.
Technically it looks good, and has great access and sound, and, although it does lend itself to be edited down by about 5 minutes, it is still a gently warming and engaging character piece.
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