By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
My Hero’s Shadow (2018), the debut feature from writer-director Justin Young, is a fascinating, intimate and in-depth documentary. It explores the themes of family, forgiveness, judgment and perspective to masterful effect. Utilizing one-on-one discussions and a quietly poignant style that works wonderfully for the endeavor, Young crafts an arrangement that is as thoughtful as it is absorbing. There is also a distinct message of unyielding love, and that no one is purely noble or nefarious, at the heart of the piece. Such welcome notions make the exercise evermore timely and resonant.
Young’s configuration is a meditation on the man who struck Nancy Kerrigan with a baton in 1994, Shane Stant. His private accounts, especially when addressing what led him to engage in such an action, are certainly eye-opening. Yet, the brilliance of the film emerges from the story being reflected through the compassionate viewpoint of Shane’s sister, Maile. She was only three years old when the incident took place. In so doing, her memory of her brother is shaped from who Shane became after the previously stated occurrence. The foundation of the undertaking is erected when Maile meets with Shane 20 years after the attack. This is to openly converse on what transpired that day at Cobo Arena.
Such is an undoubtedly gripping topic. It is one which Young handles in a manner that finds poetry in simple sights and communions. For instance, there is a memorable sequence where Maile speaks of an individual who found growth and tranquility in watching a sun rise for 142 days in a row. The glimpses into Shane and Maile’s childhoods that course throughout the project are just as harrowing. Such insights allow audiences to leave the 78-minute venture with a well-rounded sense of who these two people are personally. The bits that go into Shane’s public perception are just as well-done.
With its economical length, efficient pace and technically skillful construction, Young’s exertion is a surefire triumph. Its alternately melancholy and inspiring tones deepen the picture of Maile and Shane that Young thoroughly paints. This is also true of those who have impacted the lives of the duo. In turn, Young formulates an incredibly illuminating composition; a tour de force that compels viewers to see the humanity in others. My Hero’s Shadow, which is currently seeking distribution, is a must-see!