Back in April, I reviewed To Kill a Mockingbird for Silver Screen Classics’ Classic Literature On Film Blogathon. I also read the book earlier this year. When I discovered Rebecca from Taking Up Room was hosting the Atticus and Boo Blogathon, I just had to participate, as it was too good of a coincidence to pass up! Because this blogathon celebrates Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall, I decided to review one film from each of their filmographies. However, I purposefully chose two films that were not only released in the ‘80s, but also had something to do with athletics. For this double feature, I’ll start by reviewing the 1983 movie, The Terry Fox Story. I have to admit I like finding made-for-TV movies from years past. This specific film is an HBO presentation that I watched on Youtube. I will also admit that I knew very little about the true story that inspired the film. So, I was looking forward to being educated on Terry Fox’s story!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I will talk about Robert Duvall’s performance first, as he is one of the reasons why I reviewed this film. In The Terry Fox Story, Robert portrays Bill Vigars, a member of the Cancer Society from Toronto. He doesn’t show up until fifty-nine minutes into the movie, but Robert is given more screen time than he had in To Kill A Mockingbird. With a performance that comes across as natural, Robert made his character feel like a real-life person. One is his best scenes was when Bill gives a pep talk to Terry about ignoring the press. It shows this particular character is trying to look out for Terry’s best interests. Speaking of Terry, Eric Fryer is one of the strongest members in this cast! No matter what scene he appeared in, his performance felt realistic. He displayed the frustrations a patient with cancer might experience, such as when Terry wants to quit his treatments and leave the hospital. There were even times when his character was emotionally guarded, protecting himself from experiencing more pain in his life. Terry stopping people from touching his hair is a good example of this. Despite all the on-screen hardships, Eric brought joy to his role, which helped create happier moments that felt earned. Rika Noda was a part of these happier moments, showing Terry how he can open his heart and allow his personal barriers to be broken down. Portrayed by Rosalind Chao, Rika was an endearing character who, more often than not, brought out the best in Terry. While she gave a good performance individually, Rosalind also had good on-screen chemistry with Eric Fryer. This made me invested in their on-screen relationship and want to see it succeed!
The scenery: Since this movie revolves around Terry’s marathon across Canada, the country’s landscapes serve as photogenic backdrops! When Terry starts his marathon in Newfoundland, he stands on the shores of Cape Spear. With the waves crashing against the rocky shores, this location created a powerful image of a warrior preparing for battle. This waterfront area was also appealing to look at. During his marathon, Terry runs past a city skyline. Behind that skyline was a beautiful sunset. Its pale orange hues illuminated the scene, bringing forth a peaceful picture. A variety of surroundings were featured throughout the marathon. This showed a good representation of the living environments that can be found in an individual country like Canada.
Showing heart-breaking and heart-warming moments: In my review of Nicholas Nickleby, I said one of the strengths of the movie was how there was a balance of despair and joy within the story. The Terry Fox Story had a similar strength, showing both the heart-breaking and heart-warming moments of Terry’s journey. While receiving treatments at the hospital, Terry meets another cancer patient named Bob. Several scenes later, Terry crosses paths with Bob again. This time, the treatments have taken their toll on Bob, making him appear unrecognizable. It was just one example of the ugliness cancer carries, showing the audience a more realistic depiction of the disease. My favorite scene in this film is when Terry’s family and friends are waiting for him to cross the finish line at the seventeen-mile marathon. It was such a heart-warming moment, it made me tear up. This is because it did a good job at displaying what happens when someone believes in another person. It was also a happy occasion that perfectly contrasted the scene’s dark and rainy background!
What I didn’t like about the film:
A rushed beginning: I’m aware there’s only so much story that can be told in an hour and thirty-six minutes. However, the first thirty-eight minutesof The Terry Fox Story was rushed. Important events that led up to the marathon were shown in short segments. It felt like these moments were bullet points within a timeline. It also seemed like the film’s creative team tried to squeeze as much of Terry’s story into the script as they realistically could. Only focusing on some of the events would have benefitted the overall project, as the movie’s flow would be even and certain parts of the story could be fleshed out more.
Terry’s bad attitude: After watching The Terry Fox Story, I read Terry’s family was not a fan of the film “for depicting him as ill-tempered”. In the movie, I saw the character of Terry giving some of the people around him a bad attitude. Toward the beginning of the marathon, Terry complains to his friend, Doug, over the smallest of things. He even calls his friend hurtful names. In the few moments when this happened, it made me briefly question why I was rooting for this character. I know this creative decision was chosen to show how humans can be flawed and have their bad days. Eventually, Terry learns from his errors and apologizes to Doug. But when a movie presents a character they want me to root for and, for any reason, that character makes me wonder why I’m rooting for them, that is not a good thing.
Unresolved or under-resolved story points: There were a few story points in The Terry Fox Story that were either unresolved or under-resolved. As I mentioned earlier, Bob and Terry shared two scenes together. The second of these two scenes left an unresolved conclusion, as Bob is never seen again for the rest of the film. The story never explains if Bob beat his cancer diagnosis or if he passed away. Before the marathon, Rika and Terry’s relationship was traveling rocky waters. It wasn’t until the one hour and fifteen-minute mark when Rika’s voice-over could be heard, indicating her and Terry’s issues were resolved. While it was nice to receive this resolution, it could have been received a lot sooner in the story.
My overall impression:
Before watching The Terry Fox Story, I only knew the bare minimum of Terry Fox’s story. Now, I feel like I’ve been educated on one of the most important pieces of Canadian history! While there are flaws within the project, the 1983 film did a good job showcasing the human spirit on film. Heart breaking and warming moments influence how people view their world, with the movie effectively showing that. The story also reminds the audience that humans are not invincible, as they all have their own limits. Terry Fox and his marathon teaches us what we are capable of when we believe in ourselves and others. As the character of Terry said in The Terry Fox Story, “it’s about reaching out to people and having them touch you back”. Another good lesson this film teaches is how, sometimes, our best is more than enough. Terry’s single act of attempting to run across Canada helped start a conversation we’re still having decades later. Awareness for various cancers are being raised year after year and multiple organizations have joined the fight against this horrible disease. Even though there’s still more work to do done, I’d like to think Terry’s dream is closer to coming true.
Overall score: 8.1 out of 10
Have you heard of Terry Fox’s story? Which “based on a true story” movie would you like to see me write about? Let me know in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!
Here’s the link to the quote I referenced in this review: