Free Solo (2018)

JIMMY CHIN, ELIZABETH CHAI VASARHELYI

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBUSA, 2018, , Cinematography by Produced by Jimmy Chin, , Evan Hayes, , Music by Film Editing by Academy Awards 2018Toronto International Film Festival 2018.

is a rock climber who has a particular passion for a particularly dangerous subsection of the sport, for him an exhilarating adventure that the rest of us find completely insane. Less than one percent of rock climbers practice free solo climbing, crawling up the sides of giant edifices without a rope and feeling the thrill of knowing that any move could be their very last. He lives a solitary existence thanks to his constantly traveling and never having a solid home base, but meets and, over the course of this beautifully shot documentary, the learning process of becoming part of a serious relationship is pitted against his desire to throw caution to the wind and risk a grisly death:  in June of 2017, Honnold free solo’d his way up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, and filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi challenged themselves to find a way to capture the experience without interfering with his safety or concentration. Following him through his trials and preparations, meeting his family and his mentor , Chin and Vasarhelyi uncover some interesting facts (a brain scan shows that Honnold’s amygdala needs a hell of a lot more stimulation than the average person does) and some uncomfortable ones (no one close to him wants him to do this and doesn’t know how to tell him). Produced by National Geographic, this is an emotional journey into the politics of passion, challenging our rhetoric about living each day as if it were your last and asking if it is only yourself you have to answer to when it comes to borderline reckless behaviour, or if the feelings of others matter. Beyond that it’s also a richly photographed, awe-inspiring record of an amazing athletic accomplishment (spoiler alert) that has to be seen to be believed.

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