Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton
5th October 2017 12.18am at BFI IMAX
8th October 2017 3.15pm at Prince Charles Cinema
Welcome to the watery Hell of big-wave surfing. Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy provides a personal history of renowned surfer Laird Hamilton – tracing his upbringing in Hawaii, his early fascination with surfing, and his diversions into acting and modelling, before finally succeeding in professional, non-competitive surfing.
Regardless of the viewer’s opinion on surfing, or lack thereof, the film is a fascinating insight into that world, shot with adrenaline and testosterone. The most exciting scenes are those where Hamilton and others ride waves that are dangerously high – ones that would make us flee from the beach. When Hamilton rides a particularly heavy wave in Tahiti, the viewer has to watch through frightened fingers. Kennedy also reveals his subject’s more innovative side as he designs and modifies his surfboards to achieve specific objectives when riding.
But despite the thrills, Take Every Wave isn’t a deep documentary. Kennedy prefers instead to spend an inordinate amount of time searching for waves and promoting the surfer’s clothing label. The more personal, emotional areas in Hamilton’s life are evaded and never mentioned again. His father’s beatings, his mother’s death, and the near-split with his second wife aren’t explored thoroughly enough – despite being of greater interest than the beautiful but endless footage of people surfing. By the end, the audience has a greater understanding of Hamilton’s achievements, but nothing about him as a person. The documentary feels more like a fluff piece, reiterating, over and over, how great this man is.
Take Every Wave is a fantasy when it comes to the people involved, but the waves and the terror are all too real. It’s hard not to be entranced by a man who meets fear head-on through strong, unforgiving waters. He claims to have faced fear so many times that it’s become part of him. Even if the viewer hates surfing, one can’t help but admire him as well as the brave (or stupid) individuals who take on those waves.
Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton here: