(Release Info London schedule; December 11th, 2018, Picturehouse Central, 18:00)
From filmmaker and mountaineer Jimmy Chin comes "Free Solo", a stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream, climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock, the 3,200-foot 'El Capitan' in 'Yosemite National Park'; without a rope. Celebrated as one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind, Honnold’s climb set the ultimate standard, perfection or death. Succeeding in this challenge places his story in the annals of human achievement. "Free Solo" is an edge-of-your seat thriller and an inspiring portrait of an athlete who challenges both his body and his beliefs on a quest to triumph over the impossible, revealing the personal toll of excellence. As the climber begins his training, the armor of invincibility he’s built up over decades unexpectedly breaks apart when Honnold begins to fall in love, threatening his focus and giving way to injury and setbacks. The film succeeds in beautifully capturing deeply human moments with Honnold as well as the death-defying climb with exquisite artistry and masterful, vertigo-inducing camerawork. The result is a triumph of the human spirit that represents a miraculous opportunity for the rest of us to experience the human sublime.
Free soloing takes extraordinary commitment because you’re climbing without a safety system to catch you. Simply put, if you don’t perform perfectly, you die. It's the purest form of climbing, and the most dangerous. It's just you and the rock with no margin for error. Alex Honnold prepares meticulously for his solos and has a specific talent; he can control his fear absolutely. The greatest athletes are judged by how well they perform under pressure. To be able to maintain total composure and execute perfectly for hours at a time when the stakes are life and death the entire time; that’s extraordinary. The choices you've to make to be a free soloist point to some very hard decisions, in a way, to the essence of some of the hardest decisions that a person has to make in life; ambition versus family/relationships, risk versus reward. It’s difficult to imagine that someone could feel they're 100 percent ready to free solo 'El Cap'. The technical difficulties are such that even if you’re a professional climber, with a rope, on one of your best days, you could fall. Beyond requiring superhuman power and endurance, the climbing on 'Freerider' is very insecure and complex; it requires an enormous amount finesse and nuanced body positions. There are sections where it’s purely friction. Your feet are standing on nothing and there are no handholds to catch yourself. You've to be perfect.
This film is interested in the emotional questions around climbing. It important that the film explore not only Alex’s internal dialogues, but also his personal relationships, those with family and friends, and the nascent relationship between Alex and his girlfriend, Sanni McCandless. The film looks at how Sanni lives with the risks Alex takes and how Alex deals with balancing his climbing aspirations with his personal life. The candid scenes between Alex and Sanni are incredibly. Alex is not a maverick, he’s incredibly methodical. It's the process that allowed his free solo to succeed. Alex’s story has a strong aspirational quality that affected deeply. Those are the larger themes the film wants to explore. In it's essence "Free Solo" calls deliberate attention to the choices that we make; what’s a meaningful life and why?