Review: The Ice King

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Director: James Erskine

Writer: James Erskine

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Starring: John Curry

Release Date: 2nd March

This documentary tells the story of John Curry, an English figure skater who, with strength forged from adversity, found success. Curry’s delicately electric talent allowed him to glide to world-renowned excellence. Meanwhile, his unashamed nature made him a cultural icon.

Tracking his life in many evocative ways: through public interviews, reminiscent stories from coaches and loved ones, and letters they have kept since his tragic death in 1994 this film is an intimate experience concerning dedication and loss.

“This film is an intimate experience concerning dedication and loss.”

Director James Erskine transports the viewer into the enchanting universe of self-expression, inner turmoil, and escape created by this maverick talent. An effortless political backdrop adds a further layer of engaging context to this charged story. This includes the effect of the AIDS crisis on Curry’s life, from its fear-inducing outbreak in the 1980s.

Powerful scenes of candlelit vigils and passionate protests for its countless victims, and the gay community’s pariah-like treatment at the hands of the public and the press are all harrowingly depicted. This outbreak could not have hit Curry more personally, as this virus claimed the lives of many of his close friends, before ultimately claiming his own.

This 1976 gold-medal-winning Olympian did not intentionally become an advocate for the gay community. Nonetheless, his stoic, unashamed nature acted as an inspiring beacon of strength and pride for this vilified minority. On the ice, Curry proudly represented his nation with his raw, expressive, and graceful style.

“To enjoy this documentary, a deep interest in skating is not a prerequisite, as it goes beyond the artistry.”

To enjoy this documentary, a deep interest in skating is not a prerequisite, as it goes beyond the artistry. The film depicts the vulnerable, imperfect reality behind those we idolise most. Through bitter-sweet memories of a man who was both loving and irritating, brilliant and disastrous, Erskine respects a forgotten talent in a moving and humanising manner.

The end of the film depicts his last days on earth. At merely 44, he knew his time was near and chose to spend his remaining days with his beloved mother. Nestled in an armchair, Rita Curry tells the camera how they cherished this time talking, knitting, and gardening. Curry wrote to a dear friend, with the comforting message, “I am peaceful. Do not worry or be sad. I’ve had an extraordinary life.”

In a Nutshell: This film does Curry’s life justice, as a deeply memorable representation of an unforgettable talent.   

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