The pressure placed on young athletes to succeed is phenomenal. We have all heard tales of pushy parents and ‘soccer moms’, but when you reach the highest echelons of your sport competition is fierce. While there are horror stories of abusive coaches or systems, it’s often a self-destructive determination which drives them to the brink of collapse, both emotionally and physically. This is the case in Climbing where it becomes an obsession.
Se-hyeon (Min-ji Kim) is a professional climber who is determined to win at the world championships. Following a car accident, which she’s still fully recovering from, the young athlete discovers that she’s pregnant. Which is kept hidden from her coach. Determined to finish first this time round, she pushes herself harder and harder. This increasingly obsessive behaviour worries her fiancé. When she receives a call from herself, in an alternative reality, Se-hyeon’s life start to unravel.
Once you get used to the rather off-putting ‘video game’ animation style, Climbing is a fraught and tense psychological drama which delves into anxieties around childbirth and motherhood. With shades of Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Hye-Mi Kim’s animation toys with a number of themes and ideas. Creating a complex and layered drama. Although the lack of budget does show in the visuals, there’s certainly no lack of development in Climbing’s script. It makes for a difficult and disturbing watch.
Climbing screens at London Korean Film Festival which takes place between 4-19 November.