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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Touch the Wall is a documentary that follows two Olympic swimmers -- veteran silver medalist Kara Lynn Joyce and teen newcomer Missy Franklin -- as they attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London. One swimmer has a couple of meltdowns and an argument; "s--t" is heard twice, as are a few other minor words. Sex isn't an issue, with the exception of athletic men and women shown in bathing suits. The women, especially Franklin, are portrayed as highly admirable role models who demonstrate excellent sportsmanship, teamwork, and humanism. Despite brief iffy material, this is an inspiring choice for tweens, especially girls.
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What's the story?
In the two years leading up to the 2012 Olympics in London, two swimmers step up their training in TOUCH THE WALL. Kara Lynn Joyce is in her mid-20s and hopes to compete in her third Games. She received two silver medals in Athens, in 2004, and two more silver medals in Beijing, in 2008. She decides to relocate to Aurora, Colorado, where she'll train with coach Todd Schmitz, alongside a very promising teen Olympic hopeful, Missy Franklin. Joyce and Franklin become fast friends as Franklin's career takes off. But as she's winning competitions and breaking records, Joyce finds it increasingly difficult to push her body as hard as she did in her teens. At the Olympics, the friends must swim as fast as they can without losing sight of what's really important.
Is it any good?
This movie plays a little bit like one of those official Olympic documentaries, where everything seems a bit too scrubbed clean, but it doesn't resort to artificial drama. Both Joyce and Franklin come across as totally ordinary folks. "I'm not famous!" says Franklin incredulously to an interviewer. "I've just had some media attention." Joyce has it the roughest here, 10 years older than Franklin and struggling with her physical limitations.
Joyce has a couple of meltdowns on camera, but they seem born of frustration rather than any kind of diva complex. Scenes with her boyfriend make her even more normal and sympathetic. And Franklin comes across as a bona fide hero, turning down multimillion-dollar endorsement deals, continuing to compete with her high school team, and showing generosity and good cheer at every moment. In the end, Touch the Wall gives a good name to these two Olympians, if not Olympians everywhere.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Missy Franklin is a role model. How does she behave toward others in Touch the Wall? What does she give up?
What about Kara Lynn Joyce? What does she give up? What has she learned over the course of her Olympic career?
Do the swimmers present an realistic body image for girls?
The two featured women manage to keep up their friendship even though one has achieved far greater success than the other. Have you ever been in that situation? Was there jealousy, or was everything OK?
- In theaters: November 28, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: August 4, 2015
- Cast: Missy Franklin, Kara Lynn Joyce, Todd Schmitz
- Directors: Grant Barbeito, Christo Brock
- Studio: mTuckman Media
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character Strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
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