Worth leaning into…
Laura Enever’s film, Undone, is insane.
Holy shit, she is a badass, you guys. Shoot this film straight into my veins.
In the film’s opening sequence, Enever gets completely annihilated on a crazy mutant of a wave at Shipstern’s. This is just the start of her thoroughly candid depiction of transforming herself, after seven years on the CT, into a big-wave surfer. The introduction succinctly brings us up to date. A trip over the falls at Jaws, a knee injury, dropping off tour.
In a characteristically generous interview, Steph Gilmore says she texts Enever all the time.
Come back to the Tour, we miss you. The Tour isn’t the same without you.
“I guess she’s on her own world tour now,” says Gilmore.
It’s the perfect set-up line for the three years of adventures that provide the subject of the film. Enever buys a jetski and learns to drive it. Her brother Chris goes all-in with her on her new project. She collects a series of mentors from around big-wave surfing. She learns to tow-surf and how to weight her board for the wind.
On the face of it, Enever does not look the part of a woman who rides extra large waves. She’s cute, with the bleached out blonde hair all-but required for pro surfing. Early in the film, she walks to the coffee shop with her spotted dog, casually beautiful, and orders her cappuccino. She dances in the road.
Also, she surfs gigantic waves.
In one of the film’s short snapshot interviews, Joel Parkinson emphasizes the point. There aren’t too many men who would go on waves like that, he says.
There’s a steely determination to Enever. She wants this big-wave thing and she wants it badly enough to fight hard for it. That’s the narrative arc of the film and it comes easily. There’s no need to bash the audience over the head, and the film-makers don’t bother to try.
We get it. She has this wild mad dream, and she’s going to chase it, wherever it leads.
Enever’s path doesn’t run especially smoothly.
She runs into her brother with the jetski trailer. An extended roadtrip across Australia to surf the Right, turns into an extravaganza of bad luck. She laughs and cries in equal measure.
Incidentally, the film shows the sheer size of Australia, the way that once you get out there, well, you’re way out there. Even against the space of the American west, but Australia is another level altogether.
When they set out to drive across Australia, it’s a mission — and with everything that goes wrong, the film shows just how far they travel, in a way that the usual montage doesn’t at all capture.
The landscape seems to mock Enever, her crew, and her ambitions all at once.
One of the film’s strengths is Enever’s willingness to allow the camera to keep rolling, even at times, when maybe she’d rather turn away.
This is her story, she seems to be saying, and she’s going to own it. And own it she does.
Without belaboring the point, Enever shows just how hard the challenge she has set for herself actually is. She gets injured. Takes a break. Trains more. Tries again. She falls. She falls again, over and over.
Often in surf films, we only see the makes. Enever shows all the considerable effort it took to get there.
When she makes that gorgeous final wave at Shipstern’s, it’s easy to feel the joy of accomplishment right along with her. We’ve seen what it took to get there. Her crew cheers from the jetski as she kicks out. If you have a heart at all, you’ll want to cheer, too.
A frequent pitfall of films about women athletes is a kind of desperate effort to make the women at their center relatable. Oh sure, they can do amazing things, but they’re just like you! Look, they wear cute clothes! This tactic nearly always feels fake and forced. I’m pretty sure a woman who paddles into giant Jaws is not really like me at all.
And that’s just fine. I want to feel that awe. I want to be amazed at her talent and her courage and her sheer pigheaded determination.
Sure, Enever would be a joy to meet for coffee, but her film also let me feel that awe.
What Enever does is rare and special and brave — and that’s worth leaning into, all the fucking way.