The very last thing I wish to do is knock a documentary on a few subjects as very important because of the long-unspoken and closely stigmatized psychological and emotional struggles endured by the women and men in sports activities. In high school, I discovered myself gravitating in the direction of theatre partly as a result of I rejected the model of masculinity too timid to embrace vulnerability. In fact, sports activities are as common a language as the humanities, and each of them has been confirmed to have its share of toxicity. Even somebody as indifferent to sports activities as I’m couldn’t assist cheering on the six-time championship-winning Chicago Bulls staff of my youth, or getting swept up in the pleasure of watching the Chicago Cubs lastly break their century-long shedding streak to win the World Collection in 2016. The flip facet of that euphoria, nonetheless, is the frustration that accompanies a lack of one’s favored staff and the detrimental impact it may have on followers powerless to manage the efficiency of their idols. If Darryl Roberts’ documentary, “I’m Fine, (Not) Really,” can open the hearts of viewers by giving them a greater understanding of the large pressure undergone by skilled athletes, who’re repeatedly informed to battle by means of strain that has been heightened exponentially by social media, then it’s going to have fulfilled its goal.
Sadly, there are quite a few obstacles that this TV particular—which mightn’t actually be referred to as a character at a scant 45 minutes—has embedded in its path towards enlightenment. As Roger Ebert wrote, “It’s not what a film is about, it is how it is about it,” and whereas this documentary has a four-star subject, it solely earns half of that score for its execution. A reported forty elite athletes had been interviewed by Roberts for this program, together with distinguished specialists, high school college students, and numerous folks dubbed “superfans” who’re referred to solely by their first names. This overabundance of speaking heads leads to a breathless array of sound bites with soar cuts that intestine the silence—and subsequently the nuance—between phrases. In lots of situations, a tearful topic’s reply is accompanied by an egregiously intrusive rating that immediately cheapens the second, as if the movie itself is just too timid to linger within the emotion it’s supposedly championing. So desperately in want is that this particular of one other cross within the modifying room that it cuts off an information commentator mid-word across the three-minute mark. That’s the type of fundamental error that might simply be tweaked.
Any thirty-second stretch of “I’m Fine, (Not) Really” could possibly be excerpted and aired as a superbly ample promo for Psychological Wellbeing Consciousness Month, however as a cohesive work, this system’s lack of focus leads to its message rapidly turning into repetitive and glib. Had Roberts taken the time to contain us within the specifics of a selected topic’s expertise, he would’ve constructed his case far more successfully. Neither top-ranked tennis participant Naomi Osaka nor record-setting Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, whose controversial choices to withdraw from competitions at the peak of their powers to deal with their psychological well being, are among the many interviewees, although it’s clear that their high-profile choices are what kickstarted this crucial and overdue dialog. Roberts does potently illustrate the racism of offended white male commentators who condescendingly inform Biles that she needs to be by some means ashamed for prioritizing her well-being. The one time we see Roberts difficult an interview topic is when he asks superfan Kimberly about her declaration that she would’ve “helped” Osaka had she been open about her struggles as if the athlete and admirer had been shut associates. This speaks volumes about how necessary athletes might be to these they entertain, and the way that may cause them to turn out to be the goal of overblown expectations.
An obvious instance of the movie’s surface-level exploration of its personal material is its failure to produce greater than a passing look at the causes behind Biles’ want to drag out of the staff ultimate on the 2021 Olympic Video games. Aside from being hindered by the disorienting phenomenon generally known as “the twisties,” Biles was additionally grappling with the trauma of being among the many over 300 feminine athletes sexually abused by disgraced USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar, who was subsequently sentenced to life in jail. The filmed testimonials of those abuse survivors at his trial, which had been chronicled in Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s nice 2020 documentary, “Athlete A,” are among the many strongest and brave speeches ever delivered. By becoming a member collectively to talk out about what occurred to them, these ladies had been reclaiming their psychological well-being, among different important aspects of themselves, whereas encouraging others to do the identical. But all we see of this in “I’m Fine, (Not) Really” is a fleeting picture of Nassar that’s accompanied by an obscure reference to “all the sexual stuff that happened.” Such is the overstuffed nature of this challenge, which has no time to do correct justice to any of the worthy points it raises.
What we’re left with are fragments that are, at finest, fascinating on their very own phrases, even when they don’t finally connect with the larger image. Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson reveals that his opinion has shifted throughout the pandemic years relating to an athlete’s accountability when utilizing one’s platform—he now believes that in case you don’t battle for change, you might be a part of the issue. Roberts opens the movie by claiming that confrontations between gamers and followers have been on the rise lately, possibly ensuing from society’s basic lack of civility perpetuated by Trump, although it may be traced again to 2004’s infamous NBA brawl, The Malice on the Palace. Including gasoline to the hearth of enraged followers is the legalization of online playing, which additionally raises the stakes for every win and loss. It’s clear that Roberts had one of the best of intentions when partnering with Olympic observation producer, Mondo, to get his message out to the world. For the reason that model airing this month of “I’m Fine, (Not) Really” performs like a tough lower, my hope is that the director will take his footage again to the modifying room and craft an extra targeted work that’s as laudable in its execution as it’s in its intent.
“I’m Fine, (Not) Really” airs at 11 pm CT on Friday, Could twenty-seventh, and at 9 pm CT on Saturday, Could twenty-eighth, on NBC Sports activities Chicago, and at 4 pm CT on Monday, Could thirtieth, and Friday, June third, on NBC.