In the world of YouTube and parkour and/or urbex, Rikke Brewer and Nye Newman, collectively known as Brewman, where the business. Millions of likes, lots of love, money and everything that goes with it.
They weren’t rich, far from it, and Newman was just 15 years-old when he started up with Rikke, but they were doing the thing they loved, but they always wanted more. Following the pair, part of the gang, was Aiden Knox.
The trio, with occasional visits from others, would perform parkour all over their hometown of Guilford, Surrey. Backflipping, sideflipping and leaping from great heights from building to building.
There were mistakes, we join Rikke as he has his leg in a cast from a jump that went wrong, but overall they were “living the best life” as they say often.
Rikke decides to head to Paris, without Nye or Aiden, with some friends and they film themselves on top of the Paris Metro as it travels across the Seine, the Eiffel tower in the background. The video goes viral, racking up 27-million views overnight with lots of websites and newspapers contacting Rikke for permission to use the video.
A little while later, Aiden and Nye go to Paris for New Years. They weren’t planning any stunts to speak of, they went for the fireworks, NYE, they were with their girlfriends. Though they were messing around whilst on the train and then…tragedy…Nye has a catastrophic accident that costs him his life.
This all happened prior to us joining Aiden and Rikke and what Off The Rails becomes is not, as you may think, a video about parkour and social media and getting likes, but about two young men, struggling to come to terms with life, death and all that goes with it.
Neither of them know how to cope with the loss of their friend, Aiden also loses his mother to cancer. Aiden becomes an alcoholic, his dad, who tries to lay down some firm but fair rules, eventually has enough.
Rikke meanwhile gets lost in modelling for North Face, trying to record some music and declaring his love for his girlfriend, though sadly her family don’t feel the same way about him.
Throughout director Peter Day’s documentary, the boys talk about “never fitting in anywhere”. Day mixes footage from the boys with his own stuff and it works really well, the juxtaposition of the thrills of the stunts to the mundane life with their parents is stark.
Besides broken bones and death, the boys also have to deal with huge fines, community service, YouTube ceasing their monetisation, even jail time. Rikke’s house even gets raided by plain clothes police to question him about train surfing.
The pair have ups and downs, mostly downs as the documentary goes on. By the end you wouldn’t be surprised if there were further deaths amongst them but instead they begin to have awakenings and feelings of regret for what they’ve done in the past.
Rikke realises it would have been better had he received millions of views and likes for videos that were more inspirational for helping people, rather than potentially inspiring young people to do something so dangerous.
Aiden meanwhile doesn’t want people to go through what he’s been through. Not just losing a friend but he is kicked out of his home, not quite homeless, but he doesn’t have a great time living on a boat in a marina through the winter.
Off The Rails is a very well made documentary, eye opening for those of us not involved in that world. But more than that, it casts a light on the plight of some of the youth of today who fall out of the system. Not everyone learns how we teach at school and if you don’t, well, that’s kind of tough.
Off The Rails had its UK Premiere at Sheffield DocFest on 24th June 2022.