A documentary about a cheerleading squad from Finland, Cheer Up is also about different people adjusting their perspectives as life deals them a number of unexpected twists and turns. Which can often happen to documentary subjects, making the end result more interesting for viewers.
The main characters are Miia Norvapalo, the coach, and Patricia Fisk and Aino Selin, two members of the team. And the team happens to be just about the worst in Finland. Or, at the very least, the worst in their region. But it’s easy to see why, which is one of the big negatives working against the film. Miia has good intentions, but she just doesn’t seem to be coach material. She’s not tough enough on her team, which is clear when she heads off on a field trip to Texas to watch some of the best cheerleaders go through their practice sessions, and she seems to try a different approach every other week without settling on any strict regime that would benefit the entire team. Patricia is a major part of the team, although she also has a lot playing on her mind with her family relationships – mainly due to the fact that her father has found a new partner years after the death of her mother, and she is now due to become a big sister. And Aino? well, she always seems to be just on the edge of things, be it the team practice or the people she decides to hang out with socially. I almost want to spend some more time on her in this paragraph just because she was sidelined so often by people onscreen here.
Directed by Christy Harland, Cheer Up is a very unobtrusive documentary, in some ways. There are no off-camera questions or comments being used to move things along or stir up reactions (well, certainly none that have been left in after editing), and there are no easy questions and answered to make a clearer through line. But that’s also another aspect that works against the final cut. This is a documentary that just sits there. And when you think about the world of cheerleading, and what could be examined (the injury rate, the pressure), then it just feels like a real waste.
Average stuff, really. And this is coming from the man who has watched, and enjoyed, Bring It On. More than once. Hell, I’ve even seen some of the sequels.
Cheer Up is showing on 20th June at 2035 in Odeon 4, and on 22nd June at 1335 in Filmhouse 2.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: CHRISTY GARLAND
STARS: MIIA NORVAPALO, PATRICIA FISK, AINO SELIN
RUNTIME: 86 MINS APPROX