As two new feature length documentaries released at the Showroom Cinema this week remind us, sometimes the truth is stranger - and more incredible – than fiction. Both Free Solo and Three Identical Strangers tell extraordinary, jaw-dropping true stories that are at once both deeply personal and intimate, and epic in scale.
The first, Free Solo, is a stunning and unflinching portrait of climber Alex Honnold, the world’s most accomplished practitioner of ‘free solo’ climbing. This terrifying practice involves scaling enormous cliff faces without the aid of ropes, harnesses or safety equipment of any kind.
The film follows Honnold as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: ‘soloing’ the face of the world’s most famous rock, the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Celebrated as one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind, Honnold’s climb set the ultimate standard: perfection or death.
The film is an edge-of-your seat thriller, as well as an inspiring portrait of an athlete who challenges both his body and his beliefs on a quest to triumph over the impossible.
Alongside the film’s epic and breath-taking moments documenting the climb itself, the film also reveals the personal toll of accomplishing this kind of feat.
The documentary succeeds in capturing deeply human moments with Honnold as he prepares for the undertaking (and as he grapples with the strain his actions place on those who care about him).
But it is of course the death-defying climb, captured with exquisite artistry and masterful, vertigo-inducing camerawork, that makes this film an absolute must see on the big screen.
Three Identical Strangers on the other hand appears at first sight to tell a much smaller scale story – one that is almost entirely domestic, familial, personal and intimate – but it soon shifts gear into something much darker, and with much wider, and more unsettling, implications.
The film tells the incredible true story of three complete strangers who accidentally discover that they are identical triplets, separated at birth. The 19-year-olds’ joyous reunion catapults them to international fame.
But what appears at first to be little more than a strange but true tabloid story morphs into much more sinister territory when the triplets begin to investigate the reasons behind their separation.
Three Identical Strangers documents the triplets’ journey towards unlocking this extraordinary and disturbing secret - a secret that goes far beyond their own lives, and could transform our understanding of human nature forever.
Free Solo and Three Identical Strangers are screening at the Showroom Cinema from Friday the 14th December.