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As SKYWALKERS: A Love Story opens, we see headcam footage of Angela Nikolau and Ivan Beerkus as they attempt to hide from construction workers on Malaysia’s Merdeka 118. At 2,227′ tall the building will soon be the second-tallest in the world. The couple are determined to be the first to reach its peak. But why? Crafted from 6 years of footage directors Jeff Zimbalist and Maria Bukhonina lean heavily into the “Why” to sculpt a thrilling narrative of love, passion, and paralyzing heights.

Zimbalist and Bukhonina cut from the tense cold opening and we learn about Angela and Ivan. Angela grew up in a small apartment in Moscow, living with her mother and grandma. The daughter of circus performers, Angela watched as her mother dealt with crippling depression after a painful divorce. Inspired by her parent’s talents she begins to explore the world of extreme climbing or, Roof Topping. At the same time, Ivan shares his story of growing up in a difficult home while finding inspiration and validation in the same endeavor. The two become social media mega-stars and eventually collaborate and fall in love. The two are traveling the world and performing breathtaking climbs atop the world’s tallest manmade structures. Views and likes are the currency and travel sponsorships flow in. Then Covid happens. The world shuts down, the money dries up, and the two struggle to maintain not just their careers but their relationship. 

The Covid years roll on into an eventual fade. Angela and Ivan then decide to illegally scale Maylasia’s Merdeka 118 as it is still under construction as their final conquest. This isn’t just about the likes or the money, this is about their connection. The doc then moves into heist movie mode as we watch the two plan to conquer the spire of Merdeka. Titles count the weeks, then the days, and then the hours leading up to the moment they begin the climb. 

Zimbalist and Bukhonina focus on the relationship between the two more and this offers an emotional heft to what could have easily been less. What might have been a punk depiction of artist thumbing their noses at establishment becomes a genuine love story. Clever diagrams and maps depict the progress of the two as they scale the monumental beast of a building. All the while we are hoping that if they can just reach that peak, their love will persevere.

Zimbalist takes years of footage and crafts a gripping nailbiter of two artists reaching heights beyond all odds. SKYWALKERS: A Love Story is a hair-raising documentary about the dizzying heights of love and the perilous plunge anyone risks who dares make that climb. 

Review Score8 Out of 10