Minding The Gap follows three young kids on their skateboarding journey together in Rockford, Illinois. As the documentary progresses, it explores the three friend's chaotic upbringing by their respective abusive parents and how their trauma has been passed down. Criterion has chosen this award-winning, Oscar-nominated, and 100% RT-rated film as part of their collection for good reason. The 1080p HD transfer and DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix are both excellent and the bonus features are wonderful. Highly Recommended!
Documentaries often start out with one goal in mind, but through the course of time, turn out to be something entirely different are often poetic, thrilling, and examine something deeper in life than what was originally intended. Minding The Gap is a perfect example of this as a young man named Bing Liu of Rockford Illinois, used his camera to document his two best friends skateboarding through the city streets as they grew up together. Through their early years of skateboarding, Liu realized that he and his friends had something else in common - not-so-happy childhoods, where they used their love of skateboarding as a means of escape. Minding The Gap is an honest and organic look at the lives of three friends who navigate their turbulent lives and end up confronting their demons head-on in order to bring peace to their lives.
Liu has been filming himself and his two friends Zack and Keire for years, as they skateboarded through their hometown. Through crazy stunts, falls, injuries, and teenage banter, the three amigos had quite a bit of footage to capture their youth and maybe be a part of a skating company. Even at a young age, Liu's camerawork had an artistic eye, but never felt overly stylized, but rather organic and natural like a kid with his first camera was filming his friends. As time goes on, Liu takes his subjects Zack and Keire and explores their upbringing, as well as his own, where they all realize it was anything but happy. Zack in his younger years is the wild and fun-loving kid who is always up for an adventure, but not too much later in life he finds himself and his girlfriend Nina pregnant, where his childhood is all about over and is forced to be an adult entirely too soon.
His relationship with his father is never a good one and his anger towards Zack is imprinted on him and may even be passed down in the forms of addiction and other abuse, which Zack struggles to deal with. Keire's father dies suddenly when he's young and they did not end on good terms due to an unsatisfying upbringing. This brings the film to Liu who is been mostly behind the camera by this point but has to come to terms with his own abusive upbringing by his stepfather. Instead of Liu himself talking to the camera, he brings up the past through his mother as she tells the tale.
Minding The Gap flows freely throughout the lives of these three kids, going back and forth through vintage skateboarding footage of the young kids to the present day as Zack and Keire come face to face with their abusive past and try to make things better. It's not as easy as it looks as Liu's camera reveals. At one point, the film looks like it's going the same route as Dogtown And Z-Boys, but it quickly turns into another beast altogether. Not only does it tackle the trauma and chaos that is passed down of abusive parents, but in some other subtle way, Minding The Gap tells the decaying story of Rockford, Illinois, and how the loss of jobs and business, increased the poverty and other unsatisfactory elements that were happening through the years through the eyes of these kids. Luckily, these three friends had skateboarding as a way to be a kid and avoid the terrors of their home life and their neighborhood around them.
What's great about this documentary is its uncanny ability to balance the horrors and negativity of male machismo that turns severely abusive and the unwavering optimistic minds of these three kids as they skateboard into utopia, even if it's only for a little while. It's as poetic as a Bob Dylan song. There's a reason this film won the Sundance award, was nominated for an Oscar, and currently still has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Liu captured a poignant and tumultuous time in his own and friend's lives, where his remarkable skill for editing and camerawork told a compelling, unique, and wondrous story with skateboarding and friendship at its core.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Minding The Gap grinds its way to Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection with a Blu-ray Disc. The disc is housed in a hard, clear plastic case with spine #1061. There is new artwork on the front cover that includes new artwork of the three kid's silhouettes looking out onto the landscape. There is a foldout Criterion booklet inside.
Minding The Gap comes with a fantastic-looking 1080p HD transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 that keeps its original native elements in place. According to the Criterion booklet, the footage was shot between 2012 and 2017 on several different consumer-grade digital cameras. The final transfer was supervised and approved by director Bing Liu.
This documentary doesn't really have any filters or stylized post-production features. It's a natural, raw, and organic movie made by a kid who has transformed into a young filmmaker. The color palette showcases the natural elements of Illinois with some great green trees, silver pavement roads, and some wonderful looking primary colors in clothes, skateboards, and other background objects. Black levels are deep enough without any murky shadows.
The detail is rather vivid and sharp, considering the source material. Individual hairs, facial acne, tears, and more are easily seen here. Closeups of wool hats and threads in shirts and jeans can be seen in well-lit exteriors as well. The textures on the skateboards and even cans of beer have some great detail to them. There are the standard video issues present here, mainly being source material limitations from being shot on different video cameras over the past ten years. Due to this element, there are fluctuations in quality, but overall this is a great looking image from start to finish.
This release comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix. The audio is mainly front-heavy, but the surround speakers come into play when the music cues enter the frame. Dialogue is clean and clear, whether it be screams and laughter while riding skateboards or when the subjects are talking directly to the camera. It all sounds wonderful. Noises of skateboards riding on asphalt and rails all sound great. There is a good low end of bass when the music kicks in and transitions from one sequence to another. This is a simple audio track and it sounds great.
There is 109 minutes worth of bonus material here, including cast and crew interviews, a Tony Hawk interview, the trailer, deleted scenes, and two commentary tracks with the three main subjects of the film.
Minding The Gap is a phenomenal documentary the zigs zags the emotinal psyche of three friends in Illinois who use skateboarding as a means of escape from their traumatic upbringing. Criterion knocked it out of the park with this release, featuring a great 1080p HD transfer, a wonderful DTS-HD 5.1 audio track, and some dynamite extras. Highly Recommended!