6 Below is the story of a man who had it all, lost it, and found something completely unexpected when faced with a near-death experience on the snowy slopes of a deserted mountain.
Eric LeMarque (Josh Hartnett) was once a remarkable hockey player, but his quest for the next energy rush led him into a self-destructive cycle of drugs and unhealthy highs. Snowboarding alone in the Sierra Nevada mountains, he becomes lost and cut off from the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort. In the dark, and struggling with both the temperature and a lack of food or water, LeMarque fights to stay alive in the midst of flashbacks to his earlier days.
As a child, we see LeMarque observe with his parents’ tense relationship as David and Susan LeMarque (Jason Cottle and Mira Sorvino) battle over the way that his parents can’t get along. More than that, we recognize that his parents don’t want the same things for them - but neither of them is actually allowing him to make choices for himself. In the end, his father wins out - because LeMarque’s career as player and coach are what he’s known for, prior to this ill-fated snowboarding trip. But the success LeMarque experiences on the ice only reinforces his perception of himself - that this is all he is good for - and his life off the ice continues to disintegrate.
In the present, LeMarque’s injuries begin to pile up: he falls into a frozen pond, he suffers a shin injury that gets worse as it’s exposed to the elements, he’s without food for a week. With each passing difficulty, the audience can see the depth of the wilderness in the wild, and in the barrenness of LeMarque’s soul. We know that the decisions he has made haunt him, with flashbacks to hockey and life; we can see it in Hartnett’s face, made more important by the lack of any other acting foil or dialogue.
When Sorvino’s Susan reads Psalm 121 in the midst of LeMarque’s struggle, we hear it as a prayer: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth….The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” In the midst of LeMarque’s abandonment in the wilderness, we see him start to address an unseen antagonist with shouts like “what do you want from me?” There is clearly more going on here than “just” one man’s attempt to find his way back to the ski lodge, or to stay alive. This is the spiritual journey, the testing ground of his faith.
Alone for a week out in the wilds, LeMarque is rescued in part thanks to his mother’s dogged persistence. But the man who left the lodge seeking the highs of snowboarding returns with a different perspective on life that proves spiritually inspiring for those who see his life story. It’s that testimony, formed by the test of the ice, snow, and isolation, that LeMarque now shares with the world.