Review: ELEVATION CHANGE Is Shallow But Not Below Sea Level

elevation change trees
Courtesy of Cecily Mauran/St. Christopher Studio.

Elevation Change, directed by Marion Mauran, is the latest documentary to chronicle an amazing athlete on their quest to achieve an unbelievable and record-breaking feat. Although the documentary already reached what was likely its peak last year, this is nonetheless a pretty inspiring and fascinating tale of perseverance.

The story of the film focuses on athlete Sam Fox as he sets out to break the speed record hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to raise $250,000 for Parkinson’s research in honor of his mother Lucy. Audiences have a tendency to gravitate towards extraordinary stories like this because they are things that many people dream of doing, but are held back from doing for some reason or another. This movie challenges viewers to not let obstacles hold them back.

Early in his journey, Fox faces a setback that threatens to derail his entire plan. This, combined with the fact that another hiker is competing at the same time to break the same record, shows that Fox had a tremendous amount of perseverance in sticking with his goal. One of the most inspiring things said by the film is that if Fox can hike fifty miles in one day with all of these things holding him back, maybe the goals everyone sets for themselves shouldn’t be so intimidating after all.

However, the movie does a very good job of showing Fox’s humanity. Although he is setting out with a hugely ambitious goal and a very noble cause, he is not perfect in any way. The film isn’t afraid to show some of his more negative personality characteristics which come to light when Fox is worried about whether or not he will be able to achieve his goal.

elevation change trail
Courtesy of Cecily Mauran/St. Christopher Studio.

Some of the most interesting parts of the movie feature Fox interacting with his friends who are assisting him on his endeavor by preparing his rest areas. These moments are the most emotional in the film as they show the dedication that Fox has to his values despite the toll that it is taking on him physically and mentally.

That said, after a while, the movie does begin to drift into monotony. Even though Fox’s story is undeniably very inspiring, it is similar to others that have been seen on screen before. Unfortunately, although everything about this film is good, the fact that it is being released after other movies that did it better won’t help the perception of the film in the long run.

On a technical level, the movie is quite strong. The cinematography, particularly during the hiking sequences, is very good. With the camera, Mauran is able to effectively capture what makes the Pacific Crest Trail such an intimidating and challenging risk. Thankfully, the film is shot in a way that is very cinematic, mitigating some of the narrative redundancies.

While similar stories have been told more effectively, Elevation Change is still a mostly entertaining and effective documentary. The human element certainly could have used a bit more depth, but for what it is, this is an inspiring tale.

Elevation Change is available on VOD beginning October 1.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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