For those of us with a preference for the sedentary lifestyle, marathon running seems like a particularly exhausting way of life. Training year-round to run for a few hours in suboptimal conditions around another group of sweaty people? Yikes. That probably isn’t even healthy.
Marathon is an indie mockumentary about five runners training to run in the Devil’s Canyon Marathon, hosted by a desperate shoe salesman trying to up his sales in a difficult market. Ed (Jimmy Slonina) is willing to pull out pretty much all the stops to make his event a success, but the runners are the ones who will really determine that. They are, frankly, a mess. Each of them is planning to run for different reasons: Emilou (Kimia Behpoornia) has professional reasons; Ryan (Andrew Hansen) has some serious personal issues to resolve; Abby (Anais Thomassian) is a mother who wants to prove she’s still capable of something; Shareef (Tavius Cortez) wants to make strides for Black runners; and Ben (Roberto Raad) is … well, Ben is Ben. You’ll have to see.
Thanks to the cast and scenarios, Marathon is pretty funny throughout, but some of the best material comes from the fact that the supposed documentarians are deeply unprofessional in their conduct. The team probes far too personally into the lives of the subjects, which tees up some great material and steadily pushes the story along. The film mixes scripted bits and what seems to be improv comedy. Everything works thanks to the cast. It’s often delightful.
It’s not that Marathon disrespects the idea of running marathons and athleticism. It just looks for every absurd aspect of the sport and pushes it into the spotlight. That’s not to say the characters don’t feel relatable. My favorite subplot is Abby’s desperation for her toddler son to call her “mama”; he calls the fridge “mama”, and the mailman “mama”, and his dad “mama.” You’ll have to see where it goes. Maybe I’m just a sucker for parenthood stories these days. Although I personally think marathons are insane, Marathon doesn’t take that tack as a whole. It just delights in the crazy reasons people may have for running them.
Essentially, the film is full of fun characters exploring the absurdity of the mundane. Marathon cites Christopher Guest’s films as an inspiration, which is certainly visible. The structure of the film intercuts fake interview footage and storyline footage. It also reminded me of better scenes from The Office. It’s an altogether pleasant and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny take on marathon running and people seeking to better themselves, for one reason or another.