Maiden (2018) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): Sailing Away

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Documentary film “Maiden” presents a fascinating real-life story about a group of brave and strong women who attempted to show the world that girls can do anything. Although they naturally faced many troubles and obstacles including sexism from the very beginning, they kept trying to reach for their goal nonetheless, and it is often quite moving to see how they firmly stuck together during their hard and difficult journey, which surely gave them the best and worst moments of their lives.

The documentary initially focuses on the early years of Tracy Edwards, a British woman who was the initiator of their ambitious attempt in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989. While Edwards’ childhood years were mostly fine and wonderful, she subsequently became a problematic adolescent girl full of anger and rebellion, and, not so surprisingly, she left her family and then wandered around here and there outside UK when she entered adulthood.

While she worked at a bar in some rural region of Greece, Edwards got accidentally hired as a stewardess of a big yacht, and that was how she got a chance to encounter Hussein bin Talal, who was the King of Jordan at that time. He encouraged her to follow her dream, and Edwards, who already got quite interested in sailing before her chance encounter with the King of Jordan, came to try to participate in the Whitbread Round the World Race in any possible way. Although she was rejected at first just because everyone thought that women could not do as well as males in the race, she persisted nevertheless, and she eventually got hired a cook on one of the yachts participating in the race, while also being one of a very few female crew members in the race (Among 290 participants, there were only 4 women including her).

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After proving that she could endure and prevail during those arduous sailing journeys on the oceans, Edwards decided to move onto the next step. She gathered a number of young able-bodied women including her close friend Jo Gooding, and they tried to participate in the Whitbread Round the World Race as the first ever all-female crew to enter the race, but nobody was particularly willing to help and support them. While their yacht was designed at first, there was not anyone to provide them around 6 million dollars for building the yacht and participating in the race, and we hear a lot about how much Edwards and her colleagues struggled during that time. After she eventually decided to get some fund through mortgaging her own house, they managed to buy a secondhand yacht which was apparently in the need of lots of repair, but, due to the continuing financial problem, their dream still seemed out of their reach even when they finally finished fixing and renovating their yacht, which was named Great Britain Maiden.

Fortunately, the King of Jordan came to rescue when Edwards decided to reach for help from him in the end, so she and her colleagues could be allowed to participate in the race a few days before it began, but then they found themselves receiving heaps of unpleasant comments and ridicules while surely getting lots of attention from the media and public as expected. They were casually disregarded by many experts and reporters, and it was commonly expected that Edwards and her colleagues would not even complete the first leg of the race.

Besides these and other external problems, Edwards and her colleagues also had to deal with a number of internal problems as preparing for the race within a few days. During a short race which is sort of a test drive before the Whitbread Round the World Race, Gooding got seriously injured, and Edwards had to fire her skipper after clashing with her. Because there was no time for getting a new skipper, Edwards had no choice but to work as both the skipper and navigator of her yacht, and that certainly put a lot more pressure on her as the first day of the race was approaching hour by hour.

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I will not go more into details on what would happen next for not spoiling your entertainment, but I guess it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Edwards and her colleagues came to surprise not only others but also themselves, and the documentary is often riveting whenever it shows how risky and demanding the race was for them as well as other teams. Via a series of archival video clips shot during the race, it vividly reminds us of that unforgiving side of the sea, and, as a matter of fact, I came to muse a bit on why I did not like sailing much for several reasons besides seasick.

Although she did not regard herself as a feminist at that time, Edwards gradually came to realize she and her colleagues were doing something far more than following their dream, and they kept sticking together as going through the good and bad times of their sailing journey. While often frankly admitting her flaws and foibles in front of the camera, Edwards comes to us as a compelling figure to watch, and so do her colleagues, who are as honest and forthright as Edwards in their reminiscence of the sailing journey of their lifetime.

Overall, “Maiden” presents well its extraordinary real-life story whose feministic aspects certainly feel more relevant in our time, and its uplifting spirit will surely linger on you for a while after it is over. In other words, this is one of more interesting and entertaining documentary films I saw during this year, so I recommend it to you without any reservation.

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