Review: Backspot (SXSW 2024)

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Title: Backspot
MPA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: D.W. Waterson
Starring: Devery Jacobs, Evan Rachel Wood, Kudakwashe Rutendo
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins

What It Is: Riley (Jacobs) has a shot to join a highly competitive cheerleading team. Because of this and a new relationship with her girlfriend Amanda (Rutendo) she is highly stressed. This stress has led to some true anxiety and desperate feelings of imposter syndrome. Can she escape what is surely a cycle of self-harm and come to the realization that she deserves to be where she is? Or will these fears overwhelm her out of what she’s earned.

What We Think: This was a really interesting little film. Devery Jacobs brings some real talent to her role here. The physicality necessary to play the role of a backspot is only equaled to that of someone actually performing as a backspot. Devery holds this whole film in her hands, much in the way Riley possesses her teammates ability to walk forever in her hands. Luckily for both Riley’s teammates and us as the audience she does this heavy lifting well. As a look at the adverse effects of anxiety this works well and we an feel her anxiousness in all of us as we watch. For their part D.W. Waterson does a great job with making the film feel intimate and intense. Taking a sport that doesn’t have enough looks into the psychology of it’s game and putting that at the forefront.

Our Grade: B+, A really intense look at cheerleading. One lead by what is sure to be a breakout performance from Devery Jacobs. Even Rachel Wood is nice to see as she’s always quite good in whatever she’s doing. This is a dazzling film and one sure to satisfy audiences. It has a little bit of magic about it. It’s kind of nice to see smaller films like this that focus on performances and aren’t a spectacle. Also a nice touch here is that its a cheer leading film that doesn’t see them in the traditional, overly cheery, vibes. This is more realistic. More athletic. It shows the true blood, sweat and tears these athletes must endure to achieve.

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