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Running can be, for those who embrace it for the zen-like power it has, far more than a sport but rather a place in one’s mind where the outside world fades and thoughts focus with jarring clarity. With 1 Mile to You, this is a place of mixed emotions as a boy questions his fortune, which has saved his life, but also haunts him for how fate has dealt his hand.
At its best, I Mile To You is a powerful parable on personal loss, a theme it handles without kid gloves, allowing moments of great authenticity between several of the characters. Running is the core of the plot but it is more about how it shapes and transforms rather than earning achievements, and while it certainly goes to the well to pail out some tropes, its message of guilt and redemption remains the more compelling.
High school star Kevin (Graham Rogers) is a bolt of lightning, a runner with grace and speed that earns him praise and plenty of wins. He is dating the track coach’s (Tim Roth) daughter Ellie (Stefanie Scott) and life is good. Then a terrible accident ends that, leaving Kevin a lone survivor after he rides home with his parents rather than with the team. In the aftermath, Kevin transfers to a new school and falls under the mentorship of a radically different man named Coach K (Billy Crudup) who centers the young man, and tries to shield him from others, such as the school’s principal (Peter Coyote) and a college recruiter, Coach Rowan (Melanie Lynskey) who sees bigger things from the runner.
Directed by Leif Tilden, 1 Mile To You is a complex story that perhaps tries to combine too much as it deals with Kevin’s pain, his running career, his imbalanced relationships, and life in high school, though none are done poorly, only spread a bit thinly and with a few too many markers that ring familiar. Kevin has a nemesis at school, a new cute girl named Henny (Liana Liberato) shows immediate interest, a friend on the football team is under pressure from his father, and so on. All of this is meant to create a kind of bond for Kevin, peripherals that define him, yet more often than not feel like like unexplored avenues.
The better parts are those that center on Kevin’s struggle to handle the demons in his head, visions of the accident and of Ellie’s loss, unfulfilled potential and a core pain that keeps him floundering. He finds his best hope of recovery with Coach K, and as good as Rogers is as Kevin, and he is, Crudup is the star of the movie. His approach as a positive and encouraging confidant and kindred spirit is just what the story needs, packing punch just as it should.
And that’s where 1 Mile To You finds its way, even in its length, with many genuinely touching moments that have Kevin slowly regrouping. While the genre itself is filled with traps and Tilden gets stuck in a few of them, there is no denying the impact, especially in some of the stirring visuals that lead the way, even as that way wanders a bit in the final act. Nonetheless, this is a well-made and uplifting experience.
Movie description: 1 Mile To You is a 2017 drama about a talented runner who must balance the fame his gift provides and the memories of those lost to an accident.
Director(s): Leif Tilden
Actor(s): Melanie Lynskey, Billy Crudup, Tim Roth, Graham Rogers