What is it like to be 21 years old, at the top of the world in your career with millions of fans screaming your name and secretly know the person who made your performance possible was paralyzed doing so? What is it like to be 25 years old, in top physical condition doing a job you love with your whole heart and have it all stripped away in 5 seconds? David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived eloquently, honestly answers both of those questions.
Did you know Daniel Radcliff’s stunt double was paralyzed from a stunt accident filming Harry Potter? I didn’t- and I’m pretty up on the Wizarding World. Turns out David Holmes has worked with the studio to keep this a very quiet reality because he “didn’t want to ruin anyone’s love for Harry Potter.” What’s more amazing than that selfless view is the fact that though the gymnast and stuntman has lost nearly everything that made him who he was – he still loves Harry Potter, and he loves Daniel Radcliff, too,
HBO sets their documentary standards high and this film falls right in that expectation. It’s not a toxically positive “yeah, I’m paralyzed but I have my faith and life lessons” kind of story. David Holmes’ life is hard, and his grief over the loss of his mobility and the job he adored is so heavy. Yet, he practices a presence and generous nature that is admirable and inspiring.
Coupled with David’s journey is Daniel Radcliff’s terrible remorse and the staggering guilt the stunt coordinator feels every time he looks at David. It definitely changes the images of those Harry Potter press junkets where Radcliff blinks awkwardly at millions of fans, knowing his “like a brother” friend who had taken the journey as his double for 7 films was in a hospital, never to walk again. Radcliff maintains a deep friendship and love for Holmes but the reality of their painful bond is never far from the surface.
Watching the now older stunt coordinator sigh with such incredible sorrow, “I was the last person to touch him when he could walk, and I was the first person to touch him when he was paralyzed.” is heartbreaking. This is a film of actual inspiration where the achievements are real and the journey is not easy. Beautiful shot, well resourced, the film covers complexity with ease.
25 years after the Harry Potter films entered our world, there is still magic in them. The price of that magic continues to wait for the sorting hat to put everyone, and everything, in place. Yet, as Harry Potter taught us all these years since – friendship is still the strongest magic.
**Note: I learned of this movie from an article on a writing site that said, “Daniel Radcliff thought he knew how to direct a film and discovered he didn’t.” That shocking revelation led Radcliff to pick a director who knew what he was doing and instead fund this project because he wants his friend’s story to finally be told. That tells you everything you need to know about Daniel Radcliff, David Holmes, and this film.