Review: Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life | SXSW 2023

Score: B+

Director: Dan Covert

Running Time: 80 Minutes

Rated: NR

You've probably seen Geoff McFetridge's work, even if you don't know his name. Unlike some other modern artists, he's not a personality or a celebrity, but he's ever-present all the same. Numerous companies have hired him (or ripped off his style) a lot in recent years, but few people know the man. He doesn't even have a Wikipedia page! Drawing a Life gives us a view of the artist in full, from his Canadian suburban childhood, to his connection to skateboarding culture, to his current life as one of the most respected and sought-after artists of the 21st Century.

This is a pretty conventional documentary for a pretty unconventional artist. Growing up in suburban Calgary, McFetridge's childhood was defined by conformity. This, of course, explains the draw to skateboarding. His association with that scene brought him into the DIY/zine culture, partnering with the Beastie Boys and future Oscar-winning filmmakers like Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola. But rather than getting sucked into the Hollywood machine, or burning out from substance abuse with other artists, he became a family man, and devoted himself to that and his other love: drawing.

There are some lovely animated interludes and montages set to McFetridge's poetry. But otherwise this is your standard talking head doc, but with one secret weapon: a treasure trove of home movies and sketchbooks. Because of his tendency to work non-stop, there are thousands of gorgeous rough drafts and artistic exercises to fill your eyeballs here. It's also an asset that McFetridge himself is so unassuming. He's got no ego, and seems aware of his own shortcomings as a father and a husband. It's refreshing for a documentary not to push the audience to worship the subject, or force them to wrangle with his/her misdeeds.

Unlike its subject, Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life is not a true original. But it is a special look at a special artist.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.