'You can't help but reflect on your own life,' New Canaan actor says about his film 'The Climb'

It seems we all have that one friend. The one who seems to create problems for the others, but who we keep around for some reason.

Michael Angelo Covino plays that friend in “The Climb,” which he also wrote and directed. The film opened Nov. 13 at select theaters nationwide.

Southwestern Connecticut residents will see some recognizable things, such as the New Canaan football helmet Covino dons in one scene. He was quarterback when the Rams won back-to-back state championships in the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

Football was one of his dreams. The other was making cinema. After first attending Fordham to study business, and taking classes at Lincoln Center when his gridiron schedule allowed, Covino transferred to Occidental in California, where he played football and studied filmmaking.

Covino, 35, plays Mike, the friend at the root of challenges that end up shared with longtime friend, Kyle, played by Kyle Marvin, whom he met shooting a commercial in New York City 11 years ago and began working with.

Although the actors and their characters share first names, they are not reflections, Covino said.

“The characters not in any way based on who we are,” Covino said. “They’re just characters we created and were excited about.”

But the on-screen Kyle and Mike in “The Climb” are recognizable to most, Covino said.

“You can’t help but reflect on your own life, people you’ve lost touch with, and people you should have lost touch with,” he said. “Maybe we don’t have to question it. Maybe we just have to accept that some people never change.”

The trailer shows painful interactions among Kyle, Mike, and sometimes those around them. But Covino said every audience he’s been in a theater with has laughed with “The Climb.”

“The emotions of the characters are very real and they’re dealing with very real things,” he said. “I think what we were trying to do was explore dark situations and experiences people have in life and find humor in it. There’s darkness, but we find optimism and beauty.”

They made a short film by the same name similar to the opening sequence of “The Climb,” which opened at the Sundance Film Festival in Colorado to positive reviews. That experience taught Covino and Marvin how to seek out financing for other projects, now including their film.

The feature-length version of “The Climb” premiered in 2019 at the Cannes Film Festival, winning a jury award.

“It was about as wild and crazy a premiere of a first film as you can expect. It was the wildest premiere we ever could have imagined,” Covino said of walking the red carpet with Hollywood A-listers and meeting Quentin Tarantino at dinner.

“It was a wild departure from a few months prior, with three people sitting in an empty room trying to figure out how to patch this together,” Covino said.

Written in early 2018, “The Climb” was shot that fall, with a few scenes finished in February 2019.

“The trajectory of the film was pretty quick,” Covino said.

After Cannes, a March 20 premiere was next up. An event at the New Canaan Playhouse was envisioned.

The COVID-19 shut everything down. It put an indefinite hold on a New Canaan event. The closest venue this weekend is Bow Tie Cinemas Majestic 6 in Stamford.

“I think people who know me will probably appreciate the portrayal of these types of families. It takes place kind of in this region, in the Hudson Valley area, and has this blue collar, East Coast family vibe to it,” said Covino, who splits his time among New York, New Canaan and Los Angeles.

“I’m a little nomadic,” he said.