Essay from Jaylan Salah

Movie poster for David Holmes' The Boy Who Lived. Young white man with a blue and white polo shirt and black jeans and black tennis shoes standing and looking at a older white man with a brown jacket, black jeans and brown shoes in a wheelchair who's also looking at him.

DAVID HOLMES: THE BOY WHO LIVED – A Documentary About Healing, Defying Gravity, and Living after the Fall

David Holmes always wanted to defy gravity. At such a young age, he had a desire to play God, since he was merely a child, David tested his limits, and his heart -as his mother and father affirmed- never knew fear. A dream that turned into the reality of life when David flew and flew until, like Icarus, the laws of the universe decided to intervene and restructure his life.

It was like fear shrunk and coagulated, becoming smaller and smaller, occupying less and less space in his heart. David Holmes was invincible like a Greek prince from Greek mythology, Hercules or Atlas. And this young Hercules set his sails for “Harry Potter,” a magical beyond magical set for kids, a place where he could stretch his divine muscles and reach the heights of Mount Olympus.

On movie sets, dynamics are different. Actors are not the only ones who shine. They are not the ones who attract the most attention, and sometimes they’re not the heroes of the story, at least not the true ones. So in Daniel Radcliffe’s eyes, David Holmes was a hero, someone larger than life. To Daniel, David was the real Harry Potter, strong, confident, and defying gravity, in a game of Quidditch, David could have easily been the winner.

But this movie is not about defying gravity, it’s about defying what weighs people to the ground. David Holmes in all his cheery acceptance and also struggling with a new life, gives an example of a friend whom everybody needs during tough times. David oozes hope despite the hardships of a newfound condition and the difficulty of coping with friends and family the most; those who love but sometimes can’t separate the past and the present from their mindsets.

“DAVID HOLMES: THE BOY WHO LIVED” is an eye-opener to a world I haven’t had an idea about before. Have you ever been mesmerized by the skill and athleticism of stunt performers? The way they effortlessly maneuver their bodies, manipulating bones and muscles to execute daring feats is truly awe-inspiring! They are in tune with all the scary prosthetics and harnesses, they hang up from high distances, get kicked and shoved, and get the full treatment. How actors are sometimes the ones left starstruck with people who are doing the real work. In “Harry Potter”, those were the stuntpeople like David and Marc Mailley.

One of the things I liked about this documentary, was how Daniel receded into the background, allowing David to have his moment and shine. It wasn’t a vanity project for Daniel where he could flex his muscles and make himself the focus of the narrative but gave David the air to breathe and fully express himself.

Dan Hartley does a great job of orchestrating this whole movie and leading a cast of actors and non-actors, the interviews were fresh and highly engaging, interweaved with the massive and compelling behind-the-scenes footage of David as the true Harry Potter, the real wizard whom “film people” used as the vessel on which they could place Daniel’s movie star face, and create magic. It was strange to see the tragedies behind a story that compelled millions and millions of kids worldwide, but it was also a testament to the power of filmmaking, the resilience of a human spirit, and the real love between friends, the love that made Marc stay by David’s side, and Daniel executive-produce his friend’s story, eager to let it out into the world.

I left this film feeling good about the world.

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