Minding the Gap

By Mitch Kedrosky

Mailed on May 03, 2019

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Dear Nathan Halpern & Chris Ruggiero

Dear Nathan Halpern & Chris Ruggiero,

Minding the Gap is a bit like a collage. It’s scattered, disjointed, and only as good as the sum of its parts. Though the film might seem disorganized and unfocused at times, it also has a strange ability to be genuinely emotional. A lot of that is due to your soundtrack.

The music is minimal and sparingly deployed. It keeps everything together with an emotional consistency that’s rare and powerful. Even when some of the sequences seem like they don’t belong—or you can’t understand where the film is going—your soundtrack reassures us that we’re in good hands, cultivating a haunting feeling of sentimentality and relatability.

Those hands mainly belong to Bing Lui, who claims staggering amount of credits on the film (director, editor, producer and the director of photography). He follows his friends and family over the course of several years, interviewing and even scrutinizing them. It’s a deeply personal film about dreams, skateboarding, the relationships between friends, parents, and the cyclical nature of abuse. It’s a personal vision. But he didn’t make the music, you did. And since every aspect of the film seems so singularly controlled, I can’t help but wonder how much room you had to experiment creatively and try new things.

The subjects of the movie are charismatic, and intriguing. Stylistically, Liu’s camera drifts through space and history, capturing hilarious and tragic moments throughout a long span of time. If this style sounds bloated, it absolutely is at times—but after a while I found myself deeply invested and not necessarily minding. Your score ties everything together on a thematic level, especially in the last quarter of the film, when the film is at its best.

Your work in the opening of the movie, accompanying the images of the three main characters skateboarding on the roof of a parking garage, is nothing short of masterful. Liu’s steady and fluid camera movements with your music are spellbinding. These skateboarding sequences and vignettes of abusive personal lives might seem alien to many viewers, but matching the right music with the characters makes their humanity accessible. It’s a prescient glimpse into the realities that affect so many of America’s youth, and it really wouldn’t be the same without both of your contributions.

The film is heartbreaking, and also full of laughs. It has a duality of emotion that so many films with many multiples of this budget can only hope to ascertain. I will admit it felt a little long—but the editing is mostly excellent. There’s brilliant juxtaposition at play on the screen, stringing together so many perspectives and situations.

It’s very rare that I have complete reversal of opinion while watching a movie—I loved your soundtrack from the start, but I wasn’t so sure about everything else. The film slowly crept up on me, and by the end every part of my attention and emotion were invested. I was listening not only to the incredibly important stories of the characters but also to your beautiful music.

This film is a tremendous achievement; so of course it goes without saying that I’m very much looking forward to seeing (and hearing) what you do next.

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