Free Solo ★★½

The photography alone  is worth the price of admission. But for me, there wasn’t much else to it. If you have ever seen an interview or read a profile of Alex Honnold (or, more likely, had one of your climbing-initiate friends tell you why you should see Free Solo), you can pretty much predict the content of the film, including the depiction of its star. In spite of the focus on Honnold’s personal life (or because of it) I found him really unrelatable. But where as in a fictional story I might find a lot of intrigue in the study of a person who doesn’t care much for social reward and obsessively pursues perfection of skill, the fact that this is a documentary made it quite grating. It is an interesting difference. In particular, Free Solo spends a lot of time showing how the people in Honnold’s orbit are wracked with concern for him, especially his girlfriend. If these were characters and not people I might be better able to empathize. That is, rather than a story created with the purpose to illustrate dysfunctional relationships, this is an example of dysfunction in the real world, actively happening right now. Someone could intervene, grab the girlfriend by the shoulders and say, “Can’t you see what’s going on?!”  But you are only a frustrated viewer, wishing you were  Honnold, so all this personal stuff wouldn’t bother you so damn much.