Visit Edinburgh's Museum Of Scotland and you'll see an odd-looking bike that once brought the country a lot of pride. It belongs to—and was designed by—Graeme Obree, a competitive cyclist who broke the broke the world hour record in 1993, then broke it again in 1994. The odds were against him: Apart from having, initially at least, no major sponsorship behind him, Obree had a tendency to create bikes and riding positions that challenged the regulations of the Union Cycliste Internationale, all while struggling to live with manic depression.
It's a story that practically begs to be made into a film, albeit preferably one less pat than The Flying Scotsman, which adopts Obree's 2003 autobiography, but seems more inspired by any number of formulaic triumph-over-adversity sports movies. The film opens with Obree, played by Trainspotting's Jonny Lee Miller, attempting suicide, but quickly eases back into a tale of a plucky underdog beating the odds in pursuit of a world record with a little help from best mate Billy Boyd. Director Douglas Mackinnon clicks through career highlights without finding a way to make the sight of a man riding around in circles look particularly interesting and with only the most glancing attempts to figure out what goes on beneath the helmet.
Miller gives it his earnest best and he's particularly affecting in scenes that find him sobbing after achieving his goals, moments that should resonate with anyone who's never understood why they're overcome with doubt and worry when they should be at their happiest The film doesn't really seem all that interested in dealing with mental illness, however, even suggesting that it's mostly leftover trauma from childhood bullying and that few sessions with kindly minister Brian Cox might be all Miller really needs. There's real triumph to Obree's story, and real adversity, too, but the film contents itself with the pretend versions of both.