The Flying Scotsman

Disease of the week: manic depression.

Barely a year after The World's Fastest Indian, we get the World's Fastest Schwinn? Well, not exactly, but it's hard to keep Roger Donaldson's picaresque true-life tale about an eccentric New Zealand coot and his home-built motorbike totally out of mind while watching first-time director Douglas Mackinnon's true-life tale about...an eccentric Glasgow coot and his home-built racing cycle. Only, whereas Donaldson's movie was all heart, Mackinnon's is pure hokum. It's not that the story of Graeme Obree (Jonny Lee Miller)—a former competitive cyclist who came out of self-imposed retirement in the 1990s to set a couple of world speed and distance records—lacks for dramatic incident, but as rendered by Mackinnon and screenwriters John Brown, Declan Hughes, and Simon Rose, it has a terminal case of the cutes crossed with the labored earnestness of a disease-of-the-week melodrama. When Obree isn't busy being a maverick (taking apart a washing machine to use its bearings for his bike, inventing new riding positions that are subsequently banned by mean-spirited racing officials), he battles the roller-coaster mood swings caused by his manic depression (which the movie never names outright, à la the homosexuality of Suddenly Last Summer) and, in one downright loony sequence that may or may not be a paranoid fantasy, gets chased through the streets by the same schoolyard bullies who taunted him in childhood. All that's missing is the PSA coda in which the cast appears on-screen, out of character, to say, "If you know someone who may be suffering from depression..."

 
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