“Free Solo” is a National Geographic Documentary Film about professional climber Alex Honnold’s efforts to scale El Capitan free solo. It was directed by Elizabeth Chai Vaserhelyi and Jimmy Chin, who is also a climber.
Honnold was apparently the first to make the ascent on this particular rockface without ropes and harnesses. El Capitan is about 3,000 feet tall in Yosemite National Park and is probably one of the best known and challenging climbs worldwide. At least, that;s the impression I got.
I am not a climber of any sort, but I still found myself drawn in by Honnold’s journey to accomplish his dream. The film does a good job of keeping its audience engaged through explanations that are neither boring or condescending.
Honnold himself is an interesting guy. There was some effort to explore the psychology behind his compulsion to make such a dangerous ascent. He apparently has had some difficulty with romantic relationships related to his death-defying pastime. He does have a girlfriend in this film who struggles to wrap her head around the compulsion, but it is evident that they are good together. I have no idea of that relationship is still a go for them. I hope so. Honnold has a memoir called “Alone on the Wall” which was written with David Roberts.
The interaction between Honnold and his fellow climbers, such as Tommy Caldwell and Jimmy Chin was also quite fascinating, even if I didn’t quite comprehend all of the jargon. The concerns over Honnold finding the filming process a lethal distraction was an interesting piece to be included.
As expected, there is some breathtaking scenery that is worth the endurance of some of the slower moments of this film. There was a wide range of subtle issues explored as well from romantic tension and the mental preparation it took for him to finally gain the experience he wanted from such a feat.
I am a bit too old, creaky, and rotund to take up some a practice. I may not have been motivated to take up the practice of rock climbing after enjoying this film, but I am very interested in hiking around Yosemite someday. I can certainly look at El Capitan and appreciate the majesty of the mighty monolith.
I am not a frequent documentary viewer, but I did enjoy this one quite a bit. Even if one isn’t a climbing enthusiast, there is plenty of reason to check this out. I believe it has been nominated for an Academy Award, and I am rooting for it.