REVIEWER: lyall carter
Facing Monsters is a feature length documentary that digs deep into the psyche of West Australian 'slab wave' surfer Kerby Brown, a man whose connection with the ocean runs as deep as his love for his family.
While I’ve never surfed in my life and I'm more of a fan of river swimming than the ocean, there is something awe inspiring and majestic watching someone catch the raw, untamed wave and see them riding it. While Facing Monsters is a gnarly, breathless ride it doesn’t quite get under the skin of its subject as well as it might. have.
Facing Monsters is far more than just a surfing story. It’s an unapologetic musing into the essence of Kerby and his family as we join them on his quest to ride a ferocious slab wave in the deep Southern Ocean that no one on the planet has surfed before. It’s a film about fear, addictions, and family bonds as we explore what drives Kerby, what anchors him and why he’s obsessed with pitting himself against one of nature’s most intimidating forces.
Facing Monsters has to have one of the most arresting openings of a film that I’ve seen this year. Drained of sound we see from a God’s eye view Kerby lying lifeless, his arms outstretched in pink water. This cuts to Kerby, head wrapped haphazardly in a bandage and his beard soaked in blood. This is our breathless introduction to Kerby and his pursuit of the most dangerous waves to surf.
While we hear stories of Kerby’s frustration at competitive surfing as a teenager and his need for the ocean to keep him grounded and away from dealing with his trauma through drugs and alcohol, we never really get under the skin of his obsession. We hear from his wife and mother but it is too fleeting to really get at his motivation to pursue something that is so life threatening.
However the cinematography is gorgeous from grand shots of the cragged and rocky Australian coastline to truly breathtaking footage within the very waves the surfers are seeking to tame.
While Facing Monsters is a gnarly, breathless ride it doesn’t quite get under the skin of its subject as well as it might have.