At the Heart of Gold is A Must-Watch Documentary

Trinea Gonszar faces long time family friend Larry Nassar to give her victim impact statement in Ingham County, MI. COURTESY OF HBO

At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal will be one of the year’s most important and essential documentaries to watch.

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.

For over twenty years, Larry Nassar was the trainer for the USA Gymnastics Women’s National Team in addition to Michigan State.  Nobody could ever predict what we was doing behind closed doors.  It only came to light as a result of the #MeToo movement.  The resulting trial didn’t just effectively place a death warrant on his life.  It would lead to ramifications for years to come.  Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny would be arrested as a result of tampering with evidence.  As for Michigan State, then-president Lou Anna Simon would be faced with both felony and misdemeanor charges.

This abuse scandal would prove to be devastating to the sport as a whole.  The signs were there all along but the people in charge just didn’t see it or looked the other way, including longtime coaches Béla and Márta Károlyi.  When you hear that Nassar is treating gymnasts in his basement, your jaw can only drop.  I kept up with the scandal as much as I could until it just got to be too much.  It’s heartbreaking and all you can do is feel pain for the gymnasts.  Nobody should have to suffer through this while training for Olympic Gold.

In addition to the one-on-one interviews, director Erin Lee Carr draws upon the hours of Nassar’s trial including the closing statements.  You see Nassar turn around to his victims as if to say he was sorry.  But is he?  Is he truly sorry?  When the Honorable Rosemarie Aqualina reads his letter back, one of the lines is: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”  You can only hear the gasps in the courtroom when this happens.

This documentary is so heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.  At the same time, it’s such an important film.  These women are sharing their stories beyond the news soundbites on television.  It should be said that under no circumstances should sexual abuse have ever been allowed to take place.  To see such a man in a position of power acting like this–it’s simply unfathomable.  It is a complete travesty that the evidence had been ignored by officials.  Nobody should be able to get away with this.  Not now.  Not ever.  To those who did look the other way, all I can say is shame on you.

The women front and center in At the Heart of Gold are among a number of women who fought back against a system that betrayed them.  They might not be as well-known as Aly Raisman or McKayla Maroney but their words are every bit as important.  The good news for everyone is that these survivors finally got to see justice.  It may be later than they would have preferred but justice got its due.

DIRECTOR:  Erin Lee Carr
FEATURING:  Trinea Gonczar, Chelsea Zerfas, Amanda Thomashow, Isabelle Hutchins, The Honorable Rosemarie Aqualina, Rebecca Davis O’Brien

At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal premiered during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. HBO airs the documentary on May 3, 2019 at 8 PM ET/PT. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.