Motorcycle racing requires a precise balance – both the physical balance necessary to navigate tight corners at high speeds, and the psychological balance of the exhilaration of extreme risk and the fatal consequences of pushing that risk too far. Unfortunately, motorcycle racing documentary Road, which chronicles the sharp turns of the Dunlops, an Irish family composed pretty much entirely of successful motorcyclists – can’t maintain the same balance required of the sport’s competitors.
For starters, directors Michael Hewitt and Dermot Lavery lean heavily on a glossy that recalls feature films – exaggerated sound effects, overblown score, admittedly impressive photography and the oh-so-serious tones of narrator Liam Neeson – that’s not only unnecessary, but actually detracts from the story, which is strong enough to stand on its own. More egregious is the way Road shuns the Dunlop’s triumphs – his five consecutive TT Formula One world titles are rapidly rattled off by Neeson – to ghoulishly focus on their suffering: crashes and funerals and gruesome injuries are lingered upon in a failed attempt to evoke pathos. Kate Muir astutely noted that “the film luxuriates in its own grief,” positioning itself as a thoughtful, philosophical take on the toll of motorcycle racing when it’s nothing of the sort.