By: Lydia Lucas
When I saw the trailer for yet another road movie about two white boys, I could have had no way of knowing how much I would actually like Superior. Which is a non-cliché way to say that I liked it more than I expected to.
Superior tells the story of two best friends during the summer of 1969 and their bike trip around Lake Superior before they go their separate ways after high school. The two main characters were very well-acted by Thatcher Robinson and Paul Stanko. Even if these two actors are obviously not freshly graduated from high school teenagers, they still managed to capture the spirit of youth in their performances. I especially enjoyed the performance of rebel-spirited Derek (played by Paul Stanko). The director and writer, Edd Benda, revealed during the Q&A after the screening that he wrote the character of Derek with Stanko in mind. He seemed to find it very natural to be the goofy and all-around eccentric Derek to Thatcher Robinson’s more reserved and pragmatic Charlie. Their chemistry was great, and it showed that the cast and crew of this film all became fast friends during the production.
Being a road movie, the story was made up of a series of episodic adventures between montages of bike riding. Each time Charlie and Derek got themselves into and out of trouble I was right alongside them. Each new character they met propelled their story and their friendship forward. It’s a modern day miracle that independent films even exist, so I generally take these minor issues with a grain of salt, but let’s just say that some of these secondary characters were better acted than others. However, when it was revealed that many of the extras were locals some of the scenes made a little more sense to me.
Another issue I had was with some of the dialogue. A lot of the conversations between Charlie and Derek felt like they could be happening today, but the film is set during the summer of 1969. For parts of the film, I thought that if I hadn’t seen the title “Michigan 1969,” I may not have known when the film was supposed to be set.
In the end, the dynamic of the friendship between Charlie and Derek made me fall in love with them and made this movie good. You’ll laugh a lot, and maybe cry a little, because Superior is a story that tells the truth about humanity. Its characters are true to the human spirit, and its story true to life. A classically mapped out road movie that explores the intricacies of youthful rebellion and the obstacles of friendship, Superior was one of my favorites from Heartland Film Festival 2015.