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Free Solo

Rated Parental Guidance

(Language May Offend) 100 minutes

Dir: Jimmy Chin/Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, US

“You don’t have to be a fan of rock climbing to love Free Solo. The documentary and its protagonist transcend the sport. Last year, when Alex Honnold scaled the infamous El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park in a ‘free solo’ - without the use of any equipment beyond his own well-toned body and instinctual skills - it was a feat beyond superhuman. It was also breathtakingly dangerous and foolhardy. But directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin construct an engrossing and compelling story, with Honnold front and centre, to set out the enormity of the challenge and also to explore the elusive inner drive that leads some people to do things that are far beyond the ordinary... Honnold is himself a very interesting subject as we learn in the many months leading up to the climb. He’s happy living out of a van as he travels from place to place practising his craft. He pronounces that he’d ‘always choose climbing over a lady’ until he meets a woman actually willing to put up with his unconventional lifestyle. The camera subtly captures Sanni McCandless’s game efforts to hide her unease as the clock ticks closer to the event. And there’s a certain intensity in Honnold’s big brown eyes that draws the audience to him as he sets out on this daunting quest. In short, he’s the ideal subject, an extraordinary man with an aura of mystery about him. Then there is the rock itself, a sheer and pitiless wall that seems simply insurmountable. The tension and dread it inspires is a critical component of the film, and the directors and their team acquit themselves exceedingly well in chronicling the actual ascent. It’s nerve-wracking and exhilarating all at once. Free Solo is above all a very complete and satisfying film, a meticulously crafted yarn that takes its audience on a fascinating journey into the life of one very idiosyncratic man pitting himself against the indomitability of nature and gravity.” - Bruce DeMara, the Toronto Star