UK Release Date: 9th October 2015
Runtime: 87 minutes
Director: Ross Whitaker
Writer: Ross Whitaker
Starring: Mark Pollock, Simone George, Johnny Pollock, Barbara Carson, Emma Pollock
Synopsis: After suffering a horrific freak accident, a blind Irish adventurer battles adversity to overcome paralysis below the waist and get back on his feet.
The story of Northern Irish adventurer Mark Pollock is a well-known one in his native country, where his inspiring story has been regularly covered in the media. In the rest of the UK, though, Pollock isn’t nearly as recognisable. Ross Whitaker’s documentary Unbreakable: The Mark Pollock Story brings the story to the big screen in engaging and deeply emotional style.
When we are first introduced to Mark Pollock in 2008, he is a man transcending his blindness to take part in gruelling endurance races all over the world. In 2010, however, he fell from a second storey window onto a concrete patio at the Henley Regatta, only months before his planned wedding to long-term partner Simone George. This left him paralysed from the waist down. With the help of Simone and his parents, Pollock had to fight to find a new purpose in life.
At every turn, Unbreakable is a deeply inspirational documentary. The film doesn’t dwell on sympathising for Pollock’s injuries, but focuses on his constant desire to make a difference, whether that’s through amazing physical feats or genuine steps towards a cure for his paralysis. Whitaker never patronises his subject or the audience, creating a mature portrait of the man behind the headline-grabbing story.
| "I want to be doing things. I want to be useful. I don’t want to be a novelty."
Pollock himself is an utterly compelling protagonist. In the early stages of Unbreakable, he is a bubbly figure and a prime example of someone who has found a way to remain positive in the face of disability. It’s incredible to hear about Pollock’s achievements, including becoming the first blind man to race to the South Pole. The film shows Pollock as a man driven by his desire to never rest on his laurels and not to let disability beat him, even after his accident.
Equally interesting is Pollock’s partner, Simone. Throughout Unbreakable, she is indispensible to Pollock and provides a supportive shoulder. Although it’s Pollock’s name in the title of the film, Simone is every bit as much of a protagonist as he is. She also provides an emotional entry point for the audience, tearing up as she recounts the story of Pollock’s accident.
Despite its deeply emotional storytelling, Unbreakable suffers from its rather rigid adherence to documentary formula. Whilst Whitaker rightly believes the story to be compelling enough to hold up the film, there’s an absence of much invention of the kind that Asif Kapadia has made his trademark. The storytelling is largely pretty conventional, with title cards moving us through the six-year timeframe of the film.
| "I think he’s realised the voice that he has and his ability to move people."
Thankfully, though, Unbreakable doesn’t necessarily need bells and whistles in order to deliver its message. The film is a deeply impressive, stranger than fiction, tale of a man refusing to lie down and take the hand that life has dealt him. It’s a truly inspiring story, engagingly told, with a beating heart and a rich vein of uplifting charm.
Pop or Poop?
It might not be the most accomplished slice of cinematic art, but Unbreakable is a deeply human story with dramatic twists and turns, filled with compelling characters who are identifiable to just about everyone and deeply familiar.
Pollock’s story is not one of tragedy, but one of triumph and lust for life. This is the film that such a remarkable man deserves.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.