What is free solo climbing?
The documentary's name refers to the form of climbing with no ropes, no harness, no one to catch you if you fall. Free solo climbing is an extreme sport, putting the climbers in serious danger as they attempt to conquer heights typically far above those that are considered safe.
Climbers opt for soloing above other forms of climbing for its simplicity and the speed. It requires meticulous preparation, as one slip-up is one too many for a climber who could lose everything.
Who is Alex Honnold?
One of the most famous free soloists before the documentary and even more so now, 33-year-old Alex Honnold is the free soloist who scaled El Capitan, a 3,000ft granite monolith in Yosemite Park. To this day, he's the first and only person to have done it.
Honnold is the subject of the documentary, and speaks frankly about his motivations and process to the camera. He's a matter-of-fact man – 'I care about doing it way more than I care about it being filmed', he says at one point.
The film also explores his often difficult relationship with his girlfriend Sanni McCandless, as he explains where his priorities lie repeatedly. Referring to success in both romance and climbing, early in the film he suggests 'you can't have both at the same time'.
Is Free Solo worth watching?
You know how the film is going to end, but Free Solo comes alarmingly close to Honnold's process, giving a rounded understanding of the athlete as a person. The emotional dynamics between him and McCandless are more complex than the synopsis would entail, and the filming choices from the co-director, who is an established climber himself, add a level of suspense.
Should they keep filming him so close? What if they interfere? What if he doesn't make it? The filmmaking process is particularly intriguing and makes for a dazzling visual display – see Free Solo on the biggest screen you can find.
Where can I watch it?
Since its Oscar win, Free Solo is being shown again in cinemas – take the leap before it disappears:
Prince Charles Cinema
Everyman Belsize Park
Institute of Contemporary Arts
|What||Best documentary Oscar: Free Solo|
14 Dec 18 – 14 Dec 19, SHOWING IN SELECT CINEMAS
|Price||£ determined by cinemas|
|Website||Click here for more information|