Embrace Everest Documentary Review

★★★

Directed by: Adam Giles

Starring: Rhys Dickinson and Hannah Baxter

Film Review by: Robert Stayte





Mount Everest is one of the most over-explored places in media. There are movies, documentaries, books, tv shows and other forms of entertainment that cover people traveling up and around this mountain. Embrace Everest is a documentary that shows the journey of a group sponsored by a charity for abuse victims, who fly to the Himalayas to complete a trek to a boot camp located on Everest.


This documentary is hard to judge, because on the one hand it does succeed in it’s aim to document the long and arduous journey that these people take to a boot camp. There is a lot of detail for a condensed version of this days long trip and anyone interested in the environment of the Himalayas will learn about it. It is also well made, with good production values, decent pacing and cinematography that is very impressive, especially with the drone shots at the beginning. Finally, there are some moments on the journey that have a lot of genuine emotion, especially towards the end.


But this documentary cannot help but feel like a missed opportunity. Given the charity and given how it opens with Rhys and Hannah describing the horrific abuse they faced as child at the hands of their parents, one would expect this to be the focal point of the documentary, maybe showing how these two are emotionally and/or mentally changed by their experience going on this journey. But the film makes a couple of fundamental mistakes.


Aside from one other time, these two are never shown talking about their experiences again. For most of this film, the fact that two of the group members had a traumatic upbringing really does not matter to any of the situations we see them go through. Whilst I understand that they probably did not want to constantly talk about it and that the film is trying to show them accomplishing something, these intentions are further undone by how, rather than focus on these two alone, the film focuses on several other individuals who are a part of this group. None of these people give out any personal backstory, all they do is either explain things about the location or describe what is going on currently, so you wonder why they were given more screen-time than the people that the film opens with.


It’s a documentary that feels insubstantial overall and as a result you wonder why it felt like bringing up the subject of child abuse if it wasn’t going to explore it or pay much attention to the survivors. Embrace Everest might not have the benefit of being a fictional story that can be controlled by a write, but since the filmmaker could not find a substantial story within reality, then all you are left with is the equivalent of a 90 minute guided tour. That aspect is done acceptably, but overall, it could have been more interesting.