David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived review | A touching tribute to male friendship

david holmes the boy who lived review
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Daniel Radcliffe executive produces a heartwarming, and deceptively hard-hitting, documentary on his Potter stuntman and friend. Here’s our The Boy Who Lived review.

The story the world wants to hear about the Harry Potter franchise, according to Daniel Radcliffe, is that the kids on set were all best mates. In reality, the friendships he found most significant, he says, were those with the crew.

None more so, it seems, than with the film’s stunt crew, and in particular David Holmes: Radcliffe’s main stunt double for the first six films in the series, and, according to both, something of a big brother to the young star for the years they spent working together.

When Holmes was paralysed from the chest down during a stunt rehearsal on Deathly Hallows Part One, however, the stuntman’s life changed in an instant. The tragic accident on one of the world’s highest-profile productions briefly made headlines at the time, but until now seems to have been somewhat swept under the carpet considering the impact it seems to have had on Radcliffe and his stunt team in particular.

Now, though, with Radcliffe serving as executive producer, the untold story takes the spotlight in a touching and insightful documentary. Combining behind-the-scenes footage of the Potter stunt team at work with the heartwarming tale of a man coming to terms with losing the job he loves, the friendships Holmes has gathered around himself serve as a powerful antidote to the tragedy all involved seem determined not to tell.

Holmes himself is intensely likeable from the off, possessed of a near-superhumanly positive outlook and a wisdom far beyond his years. When he reminisces about filming Potter, he’s quick to remind the crew which hair-raising stunts Radcliffe pulled off himself – clearly glowing with the sort of pride normally associated with, appropriately, an older brother. The first half-hour, mostly made up of slightly terrifying wizardly stunt work, proves in itself a fascinating insight into a side of the industry we (bizarrely) don’t seem to hear about that often.

But Holmes relationship with Radcliffe is far from the only one covered in the documentary, and it’s to the filmmakers credit that they’re often willing to move away from the actor’s inevitable star power to focus on the people most important to the stuntman behind the scenes. Whether it’s fellow stuntman Marc (who took over as chief stunt double after the accident) or Potter stunt coordinator Greg Powell, who still holds himself responsible for the stunt which changed Holmes’ life. The scenes with the latter are particularly affecting – with Powell clearly still struggling to come to terms with his role in the life of a man he also (there’s a theme here) considered family.

Most importantly, though, is Holmes’ friend and live-in carer Will. Holmes’ mother, in one tearful interview near the end of the documentary, asks, “How many young men would do that for their friend?” It’s a testament to the sheer force of Holmes’ personality that we’re never left wondering why they would. What could easily have become sidetracked with artificial celebrity cameos and the Potter story as a whole instead turns into an inspiring study of friendships tested by tragedy. The result feels a little bit like magic.

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