by Ian Morton
IED: Improve Every Day is a compelling documentary that subverts expectation to tell an honest story about a wounded soldier and the obstacles he faces after returning from war.
Stevie Richardson returned from duty having stepped on an IED and losing his legs and half a hand in the resulting explosion. The film opens with the former Royal Marine in the USA, getting ready to compete in a strongman competition for the disabled – a contest the former soldier is both determined and a little reluctant to compete in.
While many documentaries would tell the story of ardent competition in the face of tragedy (with obligatory Rocky montages, of course), IED decides to scratch the surface, get behind the challenge and tell two stories in the process; the first being strongman and the second, the unspoken psychological challenges that lie dormant behind physical ones.
Jumping back one month to document the training regime of Richardson, the film opens with an unpretentious and affecting description of the events that led to him losing his limbs and quickly begins painting a picture of the man’s new life with prosthetics. Richardson at first is jovial about things, choosing to laugh and tell jokes but the film is quick to discuss his thoughts on disability and his role in society. It’s here where the film begins to reveal its true motive and shine a light on his reasons for choosing to compete.
Juxtaposed and in contrast with the competition, the film is laced with insight and an introspective look at how soldiers fit back into society after both being a part of and carrying the scars of war. It doesn’t try to showcase and romanticise the life of someone who has found meaning, it instead gives a subtle, intimate reflection of someone trying to find their place and make their mark on the world after a tragedy.
Going in, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer impact the film was going to have. As an audience, you don’t find yourself contemplating the incident or even the injuries the soldier sustained, but rather driven to see him succeed and feel a part of something again. It’s a truly honest look at the man behind the challenge, and exactly what documentary film making is all about.
IED – Improve Every Day is available to rent and buy now on platforms including: iTunes, Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube, Microsoft and Vimeo.
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