Minding the Gap: Transcendent Documentary Exploration of Toxic Masculinity

Minding the Gap is nominally a documentary about three men, breathing their last gasp of adolescence, finding an escape from their humdrum lives in the pursuit of skateboarding. But the film quickly dives beneath this serene surface to sensitively but directly confront the issues at the heart of these men’s lives as they attempt to come to terms with who their male role models were and what kind of man they are each becoming.

The film follows Zach, Keire and Bing (the film’s director Bing Liu) as they each process their backgrounds and childhoods of growing up in abusive households, and more worryingly, grow into the realisation that Zach is creating a new one with his girlfriend Nina.

The film touches lightly on issues of class, gender, race, sexuality and poverty, approaching each with a superbly eloquent light touch, a single glance from Keire often seeming like the last word on the subject. But the real gut punches, and there are several, come when we are most taken into our subjects confidence, from Zach’s torn open confession of his abusive tendencies, Keire’s confused grief over his violent father, and above all: the moments when Bing opens his own family’s closet, and interviews his mother and half-brother about the abuse their family suffered.

There is a keen intelligence to the film’s approach that clearly comes from how close to home the subject is, this is a documentary made by its own subjects and so comes with a therapeutic sense of veracity and a deep feeling of love between it and its interviewees. This is a rare instance, like Hoop Dreams or At Eternity’s Gate, where filmmaking transcends documentary, entertainment or even art and seems to become the capture of life itself.