Hot Docs 2016: Cheer Up Review

Canadian Spectrum

Cheer Up follows three compelling women bound by their varying degrees of commitment to their Finnish cheerleading squad as they endure the ebbs and flows of everyday life in the Arctic Circle. . While it may take a while to discern the direction of the film, the stunning cinematography paired with an honest look at the messiness of both teenagehood and adulthood makes Cheer Up a must see.

Cheer Up is only cursorily about cheerleading and instead chooses to focus more on the lives of two cheerleaders: Aino and Patricia (Patu) and their cheerleading coach Miia. As their lives unfold on screen, we connect to the characters through visuals rather than talking heads or overly descriptive narration and the result can be quiet riveting. A sense of conflict is pulled out by Aino’s facial expressions when her boyfriend isn’t treating her well or Miia’s when the team isn’t performing well, which makes the story seem more organic. While some scenes may be staged for aesthetic purposes, the emotions and feelings of the characters come through vividly as they negotiate their ascension into adulthood. When they do meet for practice, Cheer Up does not hold back the cinematics or the blood, sweat and tears put into the sport and these scenes act as a great through line, tying the story together cohesively.

The lack of narration positions the audience as merely spectators as the lives of these fascinating characters unfold. The moroseness and dark humour about Cheer Up in a sport seemingly so dedicated to projecting happiness leads to the title becoming somewhat ironic as the film progresses. Is a slice of life documentary that relishes in silence, both comfortable and uncomfortable, as much as it does in the remarkable scenery. Taking notes from Cinema vérité and indulging in the seemingly endless capabilities of contemporary technology, Cheer Up is a dark but touching documentary that manages to construct universal characters out of very specific experiences.


Sunday May 1, 7:00pm, Scotiabank Theatre 3

Thursday May 5, 7:00pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Saturday May 7, 6:30pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

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