I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for an underdog story. And they will always make me cry. Big dollops of tears streaming down my face, snot sticking to my upper lip as it pours out my nose, and that struggle for air as happiness fills you with unquestionable glee. I live for that stuff. You know: When they all cheer for the bobsleigh team in Cool Runnings, when the School of Rock get an encore, and when the whole of CHINA bows to MULAN! Christ, just thinking about it turns me into a blubbery mess.
Teary anecdotes aside, the reason we like underdog tales is, unless we are rich and powerful souls who’ve had everything handed to them on a platter, we have all felt that way: Struggling against the odds, grafting until success, and sometimes failing. Seeing folk that we recognise as ourselves push through the limits is glorious and heart-raising. This is exactly why Step is one of the best documentaries you’ll see all year.
Directed by Amanda Lipitz, Step revolves around a brand new inner-city school in Baltimore where 120 lottery picked young women are chosen to be nurtured by an inspiring and caring staff. In the first year, the class set up an after-school dance program called Step that competes throughout the city and nationally. With the girls on the cusp of graduating, and a brand new coach of Step, three young women, Blessin, Cori, and Taylor, are on the precipice of adulthood and taking their next steps forward.
Filmed over the course of a school year, Step is an invigorating and compelling documentary that will charge your spirits. The film tackles racial tension in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray whilst also looks at the girls different backgrounds including dealing with poverty, parents who do not support them, and single motherhood. As well as this, there is natural drama within the high-school settings and conflict as each of the three main young ladies deal with the stress of getting into college. The pressure is insurmountable on these girls who have to compete in shows as well. Lipitz makes sure that each is lovingly showcased on the big screen, even when moments seem dire or stress-filled.
Whilst there are a few technical issues with how it is filmed (some out of focus shots and, dance cuts that you wish would stop because you just want to watch the film,) Step winds up being an intimate look at these young women. You’ll feel and grieve every note with them, even afterwards wishing to send them care baskets and check-up on how they are doing. As you leave the cinema, trying to dry the tears because you feel determined and inspired by Blessin, Cori, and Taylor. Not only do they showcase sheer resilience but also talent and discipline to succeed and reach there dreams.
Turbulent and triumphant, Step is a beacon of hope, showing that hard-work and excellence wins out. Bring tissues, there will be a massive amounts of tears.