A scene from "The King." (Handout )
The documentary "The King" is an engaging character study of Darko Kralj, a world champion shot-putter who lost a leg in 1991 while serving in the Croatian War of Independence.
Producer-director Dejan Acimovic tells Kralj's inspiring story in a series of loosely organized snapshots that add up to a strong, absorbing whole.
Kralj, near death when his left leg had to be amputated above the knee, is shown here, two decades later, enjoying a happy, productive life as a devoted family man and sportsman.
Although we see Kralj with and without his prosthetic leg — and witness the various therapies and adjustments having an artificial limb entails — this is a relatively upbeat tale about triumphing over a disability (Kralj's high dive into a river is astounding).
So much of the film's buoyancy is due to Kralj himself, a soulful, barrel-chested guy who, with the help of a supportive second wife, loving parents and a faithful coach, went from post-surgery depressive to focused husband and father and, eventually, first-class athlete.
He also has the unlikeliest of blue eyes that, alone, speak volumes.
The day-to-day footage here is augmented by gripping archival TV news clips of Kralj's wartime rescue and recovery, coverage of Kralj's record-breaking shot put win at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, plus moving interviews with his nearest and dearest.
"The King." No MPAA rating; in Croatian with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes. At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.