Directed by Peter Riddihough
100 minutes, not rated
Hoffworks Productions, 2009
by Victor Wanchena
Motorcycles and obsessions seem to go hand in hand. The book Obsessions Die Hard was the chronicle of Ed Culberson, who spent years obsessed with riding his motorcycle through the Darien Gap. He succeeded, but at a cost. There was Burt Monroe and his quest to have the world’s fastest Indian motorcycle. Some of his records stand to this day. The common theme that runs through these stories is the pursuit of their goal at all costs. This month’s movie documents another do or die motorcycle obsession. “One Man’s Island” documents Mark Gardiner’s quest to ride the Isle on Man TT race.
The Isle of Man TT is a very special race. Held on the British island of the same name, the TT is one of the last motorcycle races in the world held on public roads. The 37 mile long “Snaefell Mountain Course” as it’s known is not confined to the lofty peaks or a remote corner of the island. It runs through the heart of idyllic villages and town. The bikes have been racing past pubs and post offices for 100 years. For Canadian, Mark Gardiner, the lure of racing in an event so demanding and steeped in legacy was more than he could resist.
On the outside, the subject seems a little formulaic. A middle-aged man has what many would describe as a mid-life crisis. Where Gardiner leaves the formula behind is that he leaves a successful career, sells his home and most of his belongings to pursue a goal to race in one motorcycle event, the Isle of Man TT. His plan goes no farther. Unlike the average mid-life crisis, this is not a bored middle-aged man buying a sports car or having an extra marital affair. Gardiner feels the need to climb a very dangerous mountain.
“One Man’s Island” follows Mark as he prepares to fulfill his dream. He is meticulous in his approach to readying himself for the race. The film shows him as he readies his body physically; not an easy task because of Gardiner’s age and because he suffers from lupus. He bicycles the entire course and jots detailed nuances of every corner along the course. His focus is very singular; ride the TT.
The film is not fast paced. Viewers wanting fast-paced, bar-to-bar racing footage will be disappointed. Instead, it is paced similar to Gardiner’s approach to the TT race; thorough and methodical. It is more an introspective documentary in Gardiner’s desire to fulfill his dream. There is a nice extra on the DVD of a full lap around the course at speed. It is filmed from a very real perspective. The director, Peter Riddihough, is also the camera operator. No extra sounds or music is overlaid on the footage. He leaves viewers to their own to sense the dramatic moments. “One Man’s Island” has won several independent film awards and Gardiner has gone on to write a book about his experience in the TT.