From California to the New York Island
The world of skateboarding has always been home for strange and unusual characters. Misfits who are thrown together with other odd individuals in a melting pot of weird ideas and even weirder humour. Upon that foundation, the film Sea To Shining Sea showcases two of these distinct characters as they blaze a trail across America as part of a classic road trip.
Robert Boerleider and Maximón Monihan had originally met 25 years previously at a skate contest in Europe. The pair encapsulated that shit-talking characteristic that’s almost an essential part of the skater DNA. The constantly be-hatted Monihan had once been described by the skate magazine Thrasher as ‘Most Hated Skateboarder of All Time’. Equally, Amsterdam resident Boerleider had built up a reputation as an opinionated class clown with a talent for one-liners.
Sea To Shining Sea puts these two characters together for a road trip movie unlike any other. Although the skating element is a key component of the friendship between Robert Boerleider and Monihan, it’s incidental to the film’s narrative here. The film is more focussed on the dialogue between the pair, an ongoing commentary on America, life, friendship and the correct use of an AC unit in a car.
The catalyst for the film is Monihan’s mother gifting him her car, although he would have to travel to California to get it. Coincidently, Amsterdam resident Boerleider had planned to meet Monihan in New York, but Monihan suggests that he fly to the west coast instead for a “surprise”. In this case, the opportunity for Monihan to treat Boerleider to a state-by-state journey across America.
Sea To Shining Sea sits in a strange niche that hovers between documentary and a loose road trip narrative. The characters featured in the film are all playing themselves and all the events are, more or less, as they happened. The chemistry between Monihan and Boerleider, however, is what drives the film forward. During a Q&A session after the London screening, producer Sheena Matheiken outlined the film’s premise: “The rules were that you could only shoot what happened. But we did sort of have a loose script in the areas and locations that we were going to go.”
The humour is dry and often rotates around Boerleider’s opinionated thoughts on being exposed to an America that’s not always the most visible. Monihan, for the most part, acts as a straight man to Boerleider, filling in the cultural gaps where necessary. Meanwhile, the film’s soundtrack leans heavily on the work of jazz composer and musician Sun Ra, which further emphasises the film’s American cultural heritage.
At times, Sea To Shining Sea touches on deeply personal themes that include musings on mortality. There are also moments of drama, including an alarming police encounter and a ghostly visitation. It’s those moments that make you question whether you’re watching a documentary or a scripted narrative.
At the same time, the film goes off into odd directions, including a bizarre anecdote revolving around a tick. That story bookends the film in a way – and leads to an entertaining monologue from Boerleider in the film’s closing moments.
Monihan took on director and producer duties for the film, alongside Sheena Matheiken. Previously, Matheiken had made a documentary about post-war Sarajevo – and had also been named as one of Elle Magazine’s Women of The Year in 2009 for a film that helped raise $100k for children’s education in India. Both Monihan and Matheiken also previously produced the 2013 award-winning film La Voz De Los Silenciados (The Voice Of The Voiceless).
In a statement discussing the film, Monihan summed up his thoughts and expectations of the project rather succinctly: “My only hope is that, through the course of the film, they’ll start to realize that the two goofy guys on the screen are really just that; a couple of washed-up skateboarder nerds, who can’t agree on anything, but despite all their differences, are inescapably bonded by a lifelong friendship and genuine respect for each other’s uniqueness.”
Sea To Shining Sea is a curious film that offers up an engaging story. It’s a journey with a unique window on America observed through the lens of friendship, but at the same time invites the viewer to ponder on the same topics from their own individual perspective.
Sea To Shining Sea is available to view via Mubi.