The Climb

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Climb Movie Poster Image
Lots of poor behavior in cinematic tale of toxic friendship.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Honestly portrays the struggles and challenges of a toxic friendship.

Positive Role Models

The two main characters are real, deeply flawed people who make mistake after mistake.


Brief fighting, with grappling, struggling, kicking, and punching. Some blood on shirt. Threats ("I'm gonna kill you!"). Character passes out and crashes through a coffee table. Two people fight, with one grabbing the other's broken wrist. Character falls through ice on a frozen lake. Two people "kidnap" a third (it's really a bachelor party prank). Mention of "suicidal thoughts" on TV ad for prescription drug.


Scene of simulated oral sex includes moaning and images of the back of a man's head and a woman's spread legs. A woman's nipple is shown briefly. Naked male bottom. Strong sex talk. Infidelity. Kissing. Shirtless man dancing on a stripper pole.


Strong, frequent language includes "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "a--hole," "idiot," "oh my God."


Orangina soda is mentioned more than once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A main character appears to have an alcohol dependency. He secretly guzzles alcohol and passes out. Lots of social drinking (cocktails, hard liquor) at various gatherings. Minor character snorts cocaine. Cigarette smoking. TV ad for prescription drug. Mention of drug dealing. Mention of painkillers.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Climb is an indie drama about the betrayals and forgivenesses between two adult male friends over a period of time. It's inventively filmed and has deeply-felt characters, but it's also full of mature material. There are several scenes of fighting, brawling, punching, and kicking, plus threats, a fake kidnapping, a man falling through the ice of a frozen lake, and someone crashing through a coffee table. Simulated oral sex is shown, with the back of a man's head and a woman's spread legs visible. A woman's nipple and a man's bottom are also shown. Expect fairly graphic sex talk, as well as kissing, infidelity, etc. Language includes many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. Characters drink a lot; one drinks in secret and passes out. Some also smoke cigarettes, and one snorts cocaine.

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What's the story?

In THE CLIMB, old friends Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) and Kyle (Kyle Marvin) are on a cycling trip in Europe. Kyle is about to be married, but Mike admits that he's slept with -- and is still sleeping with -- Kyle's fiancée. The friends next see each other at her funeral; Mike married her instead, and he's now a grieving widower. Mike is invited to Christmas with Kyle's family, where he shows just how down-and-out he is and learns that Kyle is engaged again, to Marissa (Gayle Rankin). Marissa and Kyle take Mike skiing, which turns out badly, as Mike tries his best to break them up. Years pass, and things come more or less full circle as the men try once more to make their friendship work.

Is it any good?

Two real-life best pals explore the dark side of friendship with this impressively cinematic feature filmmaking debut that deftly combines loony humor with deeply ingrained human fears and anxiety. Written by both Covino and Marvin and directed by Covino, The Climb begins with an amazing long-take sequence featuring both men on bikes, marrying the emotional content of their dialogue with the physical environment around them, all in what appears to be a single, seamless take. Things continue with another single take, an acrobatic Thanksgiving sequence that transitions flawlessly into a Christmas sequence.

Each of the movie's seven sequences plays like a little episode, and the span of time between each is uncertain; the men gain and lose weight, and their facial hair changes. But sometimes odd humor kicks in, such as their surprising number of clumsy little brawls, with grappling, grunting, and kicking. Sometimes The Climb takes a break from reality, as when four men in a graveyard break the fourth wall and sing "I Shall Not Be Moved" in beautiful harmony. But, mostly, the movie is about the slow, terrible balance between trust and betrayal and about how even platonic love can be toxic (it's the opposite of a "bromance").

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Climb's depiction of alcohol, smoking, and drug use. Are these things glamorized in any way? Are there consequences for using them? Why does that matter?

  • How much violence is shown? Why do you think the characters fight so often? How did their fights make you feel? Are they exciting? Funny?

  • What is "toxic friendship"? Why do you think people would stay friends if things always turned out badly?

  • How is sex depicted? Do characters have sex based on love or trust, or does it have to do with power?

  • In one scene, Marissa practices with Kyle to teach him how to say "no." Why is it sometimes so hard to say "no"?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

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