In 2010 there’s one film tucked between The Wrestler (2008) and Warrior (2011) adapted from a true story about the figure of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighter. Matt Hamill is a retired American wrestler and mixed martial artist, He is a three-time NCAA Division III National Champion in wrestling. But unfortunately Hamill was deaf from birth.
Born with disabilities, Matt (Russell Harvard) was raised with the belief from his grandfather, Stanley (Raymond J. Barry), that he is no different from any other normal children. Stanley had seen Matt intelligence and talent in wrestling since the beginning, he even motivated Matt to pursue prestigious scholarship in Purdue University. Furthermore, as the only deaf in his hometown of Loveland, Ohio, of course there are times where he faces hard times as any other teenager; drowned in despair and disappointment. Unfamiliar to use sign language makes it difficult for Matt to follow the learning activities in Purdue, until then he was drop out from the school.
Matt, who was clouded with desperation and despair, finally convinced by his grandfather to try a second chance at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). In RIT, Matt no longer feel alienated with his disabilities. Although at first he was nervous to re-socialize, here is where Matt slowly rebuild his self-esteem by being open to the sociological, friendship, and also, love.
If you expecting this film would be serving wrestling action or fast-paced frame then you’ll be disappointed. Although the film doesn’t have a riveting plot and also the portion of the wrestling scene was not as brutal or as much as The Wrestler or Warrior, but on how the universe helped Matt Hamill to pursue his passion. The film shows the story behind Matt early life and wrestling career from his struggles through adolescence until he earned his first National Championship. You will settle in quickly to the traditional biopic formula, but in this case, the formula does not restrict the filmmakers, but rather frees them to use innovative techniques in service to the story. The practice of subtitling the entire film is inclusive, and in and of itself brings the audience together in a shared experience. Multiple layers of commentary are woven throughout the tightly constructed screenplay, bringing issues such as bullying, alienation and angst, and the need for acceptance and inclusion, into the story.
This film directed by Oren Kaplan, at first this would be your typical sports underdog movie with classic clichés such as fan chants and the big fight or game at the movie’s conclusion. But taking a closer look at the film, you discover that it makes a cultural cross-over into the hearing and Deaf world with its innovative use of open-caption during the first half of the movie and sub-titles in the second half.
The deaf actors Russell Harvard who played as Matt were phenomenal. Harvard’s likability and charismatic smile simply leap out of the film and into your heart. His on screen chemistry with Kristi (Shoshannah Stern who also deaf) was also sincere and memorable.
The film as a whole was very memorable and also enjoyable, a poignant story about finding your place in the universe.
Adapted from Astari’s Review.