The Climb begins with heavy panting; it’s pitch dark. But writer-director (and lead actor) Michael Angelo Covino is teasing us: what appears to be a sex scene cuts to a different shared experience. Best friends Mike (Covino) and Kyle (Kyle Marvin, who co-writes) are in the south of France on a stag do, struggling to breathe as they cycle up a particularly steep hill. An extended tracking shot that lasts nearly 10 minutes captures an awkward conversation, in which best man Mike confesses he has been sleeping with Kyle’s fiancee.

Using Covino’s 2018 short of the same name as a starting point, this smart indie drama uses a series of vignettes to explore the ebb and flow of Mike and Kyle’s relationship. Thanksgiving, Christmas, a funeral and a ski trip all provide different vantage points from which to view their increasingly stale bond. The camera is an attentive and curious observer, Zach Kuperstein’s fluid cinematography capturing the constantly shifting power in any given room. “Are you guys playing Never Have I Ever?” asks Kyle’s girlfriend Marissa (a lively Gayle Rankin), raising an eyebrow at the drunken thirtysomethings. “Yeah, we’re catching up,” replies Kyle. The film is shrewd on male friendship, suggesting that a lot of men are vulnerable and crave intimacy, but are often too poor at communicating to truly reach for it.

In cinemas from 23 October

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