Starring: Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, Grace Chin
Director: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Running Time: 90 mins
Meru is an American documentary about three mountain climbers who battle against the forces of nature and their own lives as they attempt to ascend Mt. Meru, one of the most legendary peaks in the Himalayas.
A story of humanity battling against the greatest possible odds, Meru is a documentary complete with remarkable cinematography that chronicles the ascent of a perilous mountain, with even more perilous personal circumstances behind it.
The story at the heart of Meru is full of deep emotion on the part of its filmmakers, who somehow managed to capture real footage from a series of dangerous mountain ascents and descents in staggering quality, all the while tackling the perils at the centre of the story.
The intimacy of the film cannot be faulted, and director and climber Jimmy Chin’s role in documenting it and participating in the climbs is nothing short of extraordinary, telling his and his friend’s stories in spectacular fashion throughout.
However, while the story behind the film and the way it’s visually shown on screen is absolutely remarkable, it’s a movie that just doesn’t come together perfectly, proving an often disjointed and even confusing affair that means the emotion at the heart of it all doesn’t hit home quite so well.
Of course, having captured so much footage, all of which will have likely been worthy including in the film in some way or other, it’s difficult to cut it all into a comfortable narrative for people who weren’t involved in the story firsthand.
Directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi later went on to direct the astonishing Free Solo, which counts on similar themes of man v. nature and personal responsibilities away from climbing to deliver an emotional powerhouse of a documentary, and yet another visual masterpiece.
The big difference between Meru and Free Solo is very simply the narrative structure. Where Meru seems to jump around, Free Solo is a more straightforward story, and it’s easier to follow than Meru, which is clearly influenced by the fact that its director was directly involved in the story, and as such has a greater understanding of how the events in the film fit into a larger overall story.
As a result, despite the incredible true story that it tells and the even more remarkable fact so much was caught on film in such spectacular visual style, Meru just isn’t the impactful watch that it aims to be, proving an often disjointed and confusing documentary. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 6.6 overall.