The River Runner (2021) - 7/10
I’ve been kayaking a few times. It’s fun. Only in calm waters though. The water and kayaking in this documentary is not calm. The River Runner follows Scott Lindgren, pro kayak dude, who’s rode some of the gnarliest rivers in the world and sets out to be the first man to tackle the four great rivers that flow from Tibet’s Mount Kailash. It’s classic dramatic extreme sports doc territory in many ways. Telling Scott’s back story of family, growing up in a rough part of the US, brotherly bonds, social nonconformity and outdoor adventures. It’s feel good stuff. Kids catching a break, finding a positive focus. That’s a key word here, focus. Both in the necessity to have it on the water and the natural focus that Lindgren’s obsessive nature gives him. It’s built around tons of interviews from Lindgren, family and the extended family of like-minded adrenaline junkies, all spliced together with a ton of home video archive and photos, gleaned from a catalogue of their self produced kayaking films. It’s gripping action, but not without an emotional heart. This is dangerous stuff, you can get hurt and people are lost. It’s next level kayaking, top level, but Lindgren is a bit of a ‘fuck it let’s go!’ kinda guy. They all tell the story really well. You can feel the passion, the excitement, the danger even now after the events we see onscreen. Despite the skill and talent shown here, it’s clear that there’s a hefty dose of luck too. These guys look like inconsequential objects in the midst of nature’s raw power. Again though it’s the emotional undercurrent that packs as punch as Lindgren finds the pressures of success counter to his love of just being on the water. This is much more than a film about Kayaking. There’s a huge human story here that’s both familiar and fascinating. I’m not going to get into spoilers, so let’s just say the twists are not confined to the river. You might come to this for the sweeping drone shots, GoPro footage and white water, but it’ll be Scott’s story that will anchor you. Proper redemptive positivity stuff!