Movie: Free Solo
March 10, 2019 8:12 AM - Subscribe

Anyone want to discuss the documentary Free Solo?

I first heard about this doc when it won an Oscar this year. I caught it last night on the NatGeo channel! I can't recall the last time (if ever) I was so on-the-edge-of-my-seat nervous and anxious over a movie.

The various backstories really rounded-out the movie and the character of Alex, for better or worse. The tensions between him and his girlfriend were definitely discussion-worthy.
posted by Thorzdad (10 comments total)
I will be interested in what people say about this. The movie is very well done, and yeah, edge-of-my-seat describes how I viewed it, but I have some of the reservations about it being made that are discussed in this opinion piece (which includes major spoilers for the movie, as they note). I also came away from it thoroughly disliking Alex Honnold (though also feeling sorry for him as well), which probably influenced my reactions to the movie itself. I'm not sorry I saw it, on its technical merits, but it made me uncomfortable in ways I'm still trying to unpack.
posted by gudrun at 8:34 AM on March 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Alex definitely isn’t the most sympathetic character. OTOH, I’ve known several equally-focused/obsessed-with-their-job people over the years, and he’d definitely be at-home with them. That said, given what Alex has chosen to do as his life’s work, I can understand the level of focus he exhibits, even though it works to place human relationships secondary.

At least he’s honest about his life priorities, especially where his girlfriend is concerned. It’s that relationship that sparked the most discussion between my wife and I.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:20 AM on March 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Watched it on NatGeo also. It made me feel very anxious, to the point where I seriously considered breaking it across two evenings; can't imagine what it must've felt like watching it on a huge cinema screen. (The Boulder Puzzle sequences; holy shit.)

I kinda liked that it didn't try to make Alex likeable, and it didn't really try to explain Alex -- and honestly I think they could've cut the whole brain-scan hey-your-amgdala-is-underfunctioning bit; it just presents him and lets us draw our own conclusions. (Mine: strongly aspie, and they fucked him up, his mum and dad.)

I thought showing how uncomfortable the film crew felt about it was a good choice.

At least he’s honest about his life priorities, especially where his girlfriend is concerned.

I mean, yeah, but this conversation was jaw-droppingly brutal:
Would putting me into the equation actually ever change anything? Would you actually make decisions differently?
If I had some kind of obligation to maximize my lifespan, then like yeah, obviously I'd have to give up soloing and, um.
Do you see that as an obligation now?
...Uh, no, no.
No, but I appreciate your concerns and I, you know, I respect that, but, but I, in no way, feel obligated, no.
(Also, the moment where he casually mentions that he's had "30 or 40 friends that have died in the mountains" before correcting himself to "like not friends, but people in our community".)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:51 AM on March 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’d seen that discussion with his girlfriend before (Oscars highlight?) and, yeah, it’s utterly brutal. A definite “this is who I am, and what you’re getting yourself into” warning, to be sure.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:46 AM on March 10, 2019

I watched this recently as well. I don't at all like the concept of free soloing for a number of reasons, but I enjoyed the film. I'd be interested in a Fanfare thread.

Also, if you liked this film, check out The Dawn Wall, which follows Tommy Caldwell's obsessive attempt to free (not free solo) the Dawn Wall on El Cap. I liked it a lot more than Free Solo.
posted by bondcliff at 4:35 PM on March 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

My family just watched this last night. Fascinating and definitely anxiety-provoking. My daughter said she wasn't sure she'd be able to sleep afterwards.

I found Alex likable. I don't think it's a moral failing to have something in your life that's more important to you than romantic relationships. I felt like the girlfriend was pushing him to prioritize her and to be a different person in a way that probably wouldn't go over well on MeFi at all if the genders were reversed. A strong sense of "I know what's best for you." But these are real people, not movie characters, so I don't actually feel great about judging them as people, especially since I've only seen a few snippets of their lives. It doesn't matter if I like them or not.
posted by Redstart at 10:24 PM on April 1, 2019

Even knowing that he ends up ok, I was still tense and cringing the entire time.

And seeing the girlfriend settle for so little also made me cringe.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:16 AM on April 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I often shake my head over the insane lengths that North Americans will go to in their quest to infuse some excitement into their lives. In the case of Alex Honnold, his passion for climbing thousands of feet of sheer rock wall with no other equipment than his rock climbing shoes and his bare hands makes some sense given that his particular neurology requires *a lot* of stimulation before he can feel excited. This one's a tense watch because even though you know he survives the climb it's so incredibly dangerous and difficult that you're left feeling like you won't believe he survives until you see it for yourself.

And his relationship with his girlfriend had me flashing back to every frustrating, doomed relationship I've had with guys who had a lot of excellent qualities and seemed like they might be good partners... if they just weren't so much the free agent whose priorities always lay elsewhere. I can't see that relationship lasting, is what I'm saying. Though they appear to be still together, and what do I know.
posted by orange swan at 6:32 PM on April 23, 2019

Started watching a documentary about climbing and soon realized it was about the guy that was going to be in the film about climbing without ropes, thought it was a 'making of' as I'd seen that the film was in theaters quite recently. Honestly thought the film would be entirely the climb, and at three hours it could have. Anyway it's a pretty good documentary. Did teach me one thing: I've been one degree from serious climbers my whole life (saw Jim Whittaker give slide show) and enjoyed scrambling up rocky stuff and such but am quite happy that I never got that bug!!!

Would totally watch a video even long distance blurry of his climb from the base.
posted by sammyo at 10:56 AM on May 3, 2019

much of the discussion is here, buried in FanFare Talk.
So I made a Fanfare post for this movie.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:59 AM on May 20, 2019

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