Golden Will Canadian-style hero worship
Tony Atherton. The Vancouver Sun [Vancouver, B.C]
June 25, 1996
Golden Will: The Silken Laumann Story is a very, very Canadian TV movie. This is not meant as praise or criticism, just a self-evident truth.
To begin with it’s a Canadian story, told with an entirely Canadian cast (Destiny Ridge’s Nancy Anne Sakovich stars as the Mississauga rower), by a well-known Canadian writer (novelist Joy Fielding), on a Canadian-sized $2.2-million budget that was raised entirely in Canada.
But what also makes the show (Wednesday, 8 p.m., BCTV) Canadian is its remarkable unAmerican-ness.
We’re not talking about a difference in quality, mind you. Handsomely directed by veteran film-maker Eric Till and featuring solid performances, Golden Will is a more substantial film than its relatively slim budget would suggest.
Nor is the difference exactly one of tone: like any U.S. movie of a similar ilk, Golden Will is meant to be — and largely is — uplifting, heroic, patriotic and, above all, entertaining.
But if Hollywood had made Golden Will, the producer likely wouldn’t have given Laumann the degree of script approval that was written into her contract.
Golden Will is a more subdued film than the usual overwrought U.S. dramatization. The lack of melodrama makes its impact less immediate, but ultimately more rewarding.
That’s because there is just enough honest drama in Laumann’s life to satisfy the curiosity of Canadians who have developed a personal interest in the Olympic athlete. Laumann’s celebrated bronze medal victory in the Barcelona Games, after her leg was sliced to ribbons by another rowing scull a mere 10 weeks before competition, is undoubtedly the dramatic high point of the film. But much of what comes before packs its own wallop, particularly the dramatization of Laumann’s often strained relationship with her mother.
Romi Laumann, deftly played by Kate Trotter, is portrayed as flighty and self-involved, an artist who feels confined by the role of housewife and mother to two athletic daughters.
At the same time, Silken’s childhood dream of the Olympics has been dealt a blow; an injury has stalled her running career. During this setback her sister entices her into a scull. Silken takes to the sport quickly, and her determination to be the best gives her the edge recognized by team coach, Marlene McBride (Susan Hogan).
The film follows Silken’s Olympic dream to a bronze medal win in the double sculls in Los Angeles, and a less satisfying showing at Seoul. Here the movie’s sedate love story begins as Silken takes up with her future husband, men’s team rower John Wallace (Dylan Neal).
A new coach (Cedric Smith) reawakens the couple’s flagging interest in the sport and Silken begins her preparations for Barcelona.
The film stops at Barcelona; it does not cover Silken’s emotional strain when she was mistakenly administered a banned cold medication during the Pan-Am Games, nor her silver medal in last year’s world championships, nor her preparation for a run at the gold medal in Atlanta.
Sakovich makes a believable Laumann — tall, athletic and strong-featured. There’s not a great deal of challenge in the role (assuming you don’t count a mid-November dump in a near-freezing river which sent the actor into hypothermia), but Sakovich handles herself well, and has an abundance of the fresh, natural charm that we like our heroes to possess.