Is life easier if you have a predefined path to follow? This is the central question that Alan Zweig’s remarkable film Hurt attempts to answer. The documentary profiles Steve Fonyo, once considered a Canadian hero, but whose fall from grace is just as meteoric as his rise. Gaining fame for raising millions for cancer research thanks to his 1984-1985 coast-to-coast run on his prosthetic leg, the same type of run that made Terry Fox a Canadian icon, Fonyo’s subsequent years have been marred with drug abuse and frequent encounters with the law.
When Zweig’s lens first meets up with Fonyo he is living in poverty with his wife, Lisa, of four year and taking odd jobs as a mechanic. A shell of the man he once was, Fonyo gets his thrills from his destructive nature, which his neighbours are not too pleased with. He recounts the time he set a couch on fire with the same reckless glee as a child setting off a firecracker in a crowded area. Clearly upset that his life has not turned out the way he had hoped, the only thing that makes Fonyo really happy is restoring his cherished Grand National car that is worth an estimated sixty thousand dollars. A car he refuses to sell despite being homeless for large portions of the film.
As Hurt progresses, it becomes evident that Fonyo is on a downward spiral that he shows no signs of getting out of. Cheating on his wife with his mistress Lisa Marie, a woman who not only is in the same drug riddled poverty he is, but also still has ties to her volatile ex-boyfriend, it becomes apparent that Fonyo’s co-dependant nature is partly responsible for is inability to fix his life.
While Fonyo blames society for his current predicament, Zweig’s film shows that the once admired Canadian is unable to function without someone paving the road for him. Left to his own devices, he will merely continue along circular rollercoaster of drugs and crime. Taking viewers to the crime-riddled slums of Surry, British Columbia, where Fonyo calls home despite frequently fearing for his own safety, Hurt shows that Fonyo’s chosen environment is just as deadly and addictive as the drugs he and his girlfriend put in their system.
Though the audience desperately hopes that Fonyo will get his life back on track, at one point even Zweig himself tries to get Fonyo to sit down with a psychiatrist, Hurt ultimately does not provide such guarantees. The film can only offer a piercing examination of a man who is so ashamed of his life that he cannot even set foot on the beach that is named in his honour. For a man who once ran across Canada for a good cause, it seems Fonyo never actually stopped running. He continues to run away from the inner demons that he should have faced years ago.
Expertly constructed and powerfully moving, Hurt is a film that shows it is easy to veer off the path set out for us. The real challenge is getting the courage to try and find your way back.