Directed by: #RuaridhMTurner
A powerful and moving story of life after tragedy, director Ruaridh M. Turner's #documentary IED: Improve Every Day is a testament to the human spirit, mind, and bodybuilding.
Steven "Stevie" Richardson severely dislikes the word disabled being added to the sporting contests he competes in. Having lost two legs and part of his hand whilst serving in Afghanistan, he lacks direction in life and struggles to accept the reality of his newfound situation. After a few months of strongman training, he journeys to America where he competes in an Arnold Schwarzenegger-run competition against other disabled athletes. His trip is littered with successes and challenges, but the most crucial of all is whether or not Stevie will find a path he's happy to travel in civilian life.
Compelling, heartbreaking, and brilliantly funny, IED: Improve Every Day is a wholesome exploration of #PTSD and grief through the window of a sporting film narrative. Whilst we latch ourselves onto the efforts of Stevie, watching him pump iron with increasing enthusiasm, an undercurrent of depression and existential crisis settles underneath. Through candid remarks by Richardson, we get small glimpses into the psychological impact of being an injured vet. His open revelations about being unable to go up stairs, or fathering children who may get bullied cement the piece and ensure audiences are glued to his remarkable story.
Stevie's shameless coach and ex-marine Kenneth "Kenny" Simm injects the essential comedic moments, such as pestering celebrities to take photos with Stevie, or bringing his coachee up when he's struggling. The chemistry between the two is utterly absorbing and, by the end, tender.
Turner knows how to use the cumulative effect through clever editing which builds Stevie's journey much like a classic boxing montage. The piece starts lighter and gets increasingly heavier as the balance shifts from humorous scenes to more emotionally weighty sequences, after our investment in Stevie is solidified.
The narrative is shaped efficiently and with intelligent use of clips of training, travelling, the show, and from Stevie's headcam whilst serving. There is a picture painted of a life dramatically changed by the events of "going left not right" to paraphrase the man himself but it doesn't labour the point. This is not an ode to life before tragedy, instead taking the person as he is now and whether, through all the muscles gained, he has the strength to keep getting up when he has no direction.
An absolute must-see and a piece of phenomenal documentary #filmmaking that may well be the best of 2019.
Watch the official movie trailer for the film below.