It’s hard to feel sorry for Steve Fonyo, but Hurt certainly tries. And, sometimes, writer-director Alan Zweig succeeds.
It is tough though, especially when Fonyo unleashes an expletive-filled tirade against his girlfriend’s ex, rails against Canada for “not helping” (a.k.a. giving him money) and opines that recreational drug use makes sex better. In a classic case of “how the mighty have fallen,” Zweig’s documentary—the Platform Prize winner at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival debuts on Super Channel on Tuesday—traces Fonyo’s life from hero to dude struggling just to eke out a living.
In 1985, at 19 years of age, Fonyo completed his run across Canada, after having lost his left leg to cancer. He did what Terry Fox was unable by dipping his toe in the Pacific Ocean, raised $13 million for cancer research and was named to the Order of Canada. Fonyo exudes pride as he goes through boxes of old awards, medals and a picture of him meeting then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Then came the fall, a constant tumble brought on by the sudden death of Fonyo’s father and continuing into petty crime and drug use. Money dried up and the Order of Canada was taken away.
Hurt follows Fonyo during a year in his life, 12 months in B.C. marked by anger, sorrow and heartbreak thanks to a marriage ending and tough economic times. Yes, Fonyo is largely responsible for his own situation, and the stubborn attitude he shows towards his neighbours, ex-wife and family is the same that urged him across the country back in 1985.
Hurt isn’t a pretty picture. As a matter of fact, it’s downright sad in some spots, especially when Fonyo eats Chinese food off a plate set on top of a recycling bin, but there are glimmers of hope that Fonyo will triumph over his demons.