In this hugely popular docuseries, the only thing more inspiring than the incredible dedication and hard work of the Navarro College competitive cheer squad is how far a lot of them have come to get there. From troubled pasts and broken homes, the members of this squad have transformed their lives through the power of teamwork, the endurance of physical pain and the possibility of victory.
The series follows the Texas-based team and their committed coach Monica Aldama as they prepare to compete in a national tournament. What stands out for reviewers about this series is that it doesn’t shy away from the negative consequences of this kind of single-minded focus on the sport, which consumes all the members’ time, energy and headspace.
IndieWire says, “As much as it salutes the various breakthroughs that Navarro team members make, Cheer is certainly not blind to the consequences that come with such a full commitment to a single pursuit. One episode opens with the trainer detailing the number of stress injuries with the relative ease of reciting a grocery list. Without being exploitative, Cheer shows the emotional toll that comes with competing pressures on and off the mat.”
Another aspect of Cheer that sets it apart from other sport documentaries is its focus on a few key individuals – coach Monica, tumbler Lexi, flyer Morgan, stunt base Jerry – and the way we get to see them evolve, not only in the way they hone their skills as cheerleaders, but as people too.
Lucy Morgan of The Guardian says, “My days of even dreaming of being an elite athlete may be long behind me, but the goal of becoming even 1% of what Aldama is will never leave me. She is the first and last word in fairness, discipline and tenacity,” and The Hollywood Reporter says, “If the people in the documentary buy into the stakes, the viewer probably will as well, and with Cheer, you’ll be fully invested leading up to a final episode that masterfully builds first tension and then real character-driven heft.”
IMDB rating: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100%