A middle-aged man escapes the pressures of his life through videogames in How Heavy This Hammer. Erwin (Erwin Van Cotthem) is a middle-aged father of two, who is beginning to feel the effects of a midlife crisis. When he is not playing rugby with his buddies, he spends hours playing a real-time strategy video game, which results in Erwin losing sleep and progressively becoming more distant towards his family.
How Heavy This Hammer is the second feature film from director Kazik Radwanski (Tower). The film expands a bit on the themes of Radwanski’s previous film, by having Erwin be somewhat of an anti-social jerk, who has never really been able to settle into the responsibilities of adulthood. With his heavyset figure, reflecting glasses, and thick accent, Erwin makes for a quite a screen presence. With his documentary-style of filmmaking, Kazik Radwanski somewhat blurs the line between fiction and reality, complete with Erwin using the same first name as actor Erwin Van Cotthem.
Erwin is quite a striking figure as he is introduced into the film, with his glasses reflecting the online viking video game that he spends the majority of his time playing. While there are times when Erwin does activities with his son, he leaves most of the parental responsibilities to his wife. Instead, Erwin escapes the stresses of his life through rugby matches and spending countless hours playing his video game and imagining how his life would have been like in the viking age.
In many ways, How Heavy This Hammer is a very sad story, since it seems that Erwin might not be able to find an escape from this midlife crisis rut that he finds himself in. There are some moments in the film when it seems like Erwin is going to become a more responsible person, however he just ends up falling right back to the place where he started. It can be hard to tell at times whether Erwin truly is nothing more than an anti-social jerk or if there is something more to the disconnect that he has with his family. Either way, Erwin makes for quite a fascinating protagonist and a natural progression from Derek in Kazik Radwanski’s previous film Tower. In some ways, it can be said that both are the same character, except at different points of their lives. I almost want Radwanski’s third film to be about an elderly man and complete this trilogy about men with antisocial tendencies.
Overall, How Heavy This Hammer is a poignant and realistic depiction of midlife crisis, which will leave you feeling both sympathy and spite towards the lead protagonist.