Gutsy People: Thoughts About A Movie, A Book, And The Wider World

When I comment about movies on these pages, I try to be a good guy by not revealing all, especially endings. I mean, for anyone with an itch to see a certain flick, that itch might damn near disappear if they become privy to too much telling information.

But a spoiler alert ain’t needed for Free Solo, a documentary profiling the great rock climber Alex Honnold that was released in September and is still in some theaters. That’s because the beans already have been spilled in every review and article that has been written about this movie. In other words, hell yeah, he made it to the top! To the top of El Capitan, that is, the monster, vertical wall of granite in California’s Yosemite National Park. And he reached the top, about 3,000 feet above ground, by climbing El Cap without ropes, a harness or safety equipment of any sort. And without a climbing partner or partners. That’s what free solo means. The only item, other than clothing, that Honnold wore while becoming the first (and, so far, only) person to accomplish this superhuman feat on El Cap was a small bag on his back that contained chalk, a substance he’d periodically coat his hands with, the better to grip the rock. (Others had scaled El Cap over the years, but always with ropes and additional equipment.)

What any rock climber does seems pretty well off the charts to me. Shit, I would make it about two feet off the ground on El Capitan’s face, maybe three. Which isn’t bad actually. Only 2,998 or 2,997 feet to go. But what Honnold did on June 3, 2017 was so far off the charts as to be laughable, in a magnificent way, and nearly inconceivable. The film crew that captured his exploits agree. Skilled rock climbers themselves, they are shown in the documentary, nervous as can be and totally awed by what was taking place in front of their eyes.

For anyone who has a taste for danger and suspense, this is a movie not to be missed. If possible, watch it in a theater rather than at home. Whatever the venue, the bigger the screen the better. My wife, brother and I went to see Free Solo in early November. We sat in the sixth or seventh row of a cinema, nice and close to the action. We were captivated. You will be too.

By the way, when I mentioned for anyone who has a taste for danger and suspense a few sentences ago, I meant to include and an appreciation of guts. As modest and unflappable as Alex appears in Free Solo’s interview segments, there’s no denying that he is in possession of an oceanic amount of guts, and I for one find his courage to be very inspiring, And although not too many people are going to try and scale giant rocks, it’s of course true that in less dramatic ways many or most of us display courage throughout parts or all of our lives. And that’s inspiring too. Hell, for much of humanity, simply getting out of bed and facing the day is a brave act, considering the nasty, even horrific, realities facing them.

I read the late novelist Kent Haruf’s final book, Our Souls At Night (it was published in 2015, the year after Haruf died), a few days after watching Alex climb. There are a variety of ways in which to look at Our Souls At Night, as there are with Free Solo. It’s about love and the lack thereof. It’s about emotional pains that do not fully heal. And it’s also about the guts shown by a man and a woman, each around 70 years old, who throw aside their normal inhibitions and begin a relationship with one another.

Addie Moore and Louis Waters, both widowed, are longtime neighbors who are acquainted only slightly. They live in Holt, Colorado, the fictional town that is the setting for all six of Haruf’s novels. But, as becomes apparent, Addie has had Louis on her mind for some time. One day she pays Louis a visit. Here’s some of what Haruf writes on Our Souls At Night’s second and third pages:

You probably wonder what I’m doing here, she said.
Well, I didn’t think you came over to tell me my house looks nice.
No, I want to suggest something to you.
Oh?
Yes. A kind of proposal.
Okay.
Not marriage, she said.
I didn’t think that either.
But it’s kind of a marriage-like question. But I don’t know if I can now. I’m getting cold feet. She laughed a little. That’s sort of like marriage, isn’t it.
What is?
Cold feet.
It can be.
Yes. Well, I’m just going to say it.
I’m listening, Louis said.
I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me.
What? How do you mean?
I mean we’re both alone. We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk.

Wow! Addie has guts. An abundance of it. Don’t know how many folks in her age bracket would do what she does. Couldn’t be a lot. In any event, Louis accepts Addie’s offer. They begin their affair — a platonic one at the start — cautiously. And, finding that they are getting along just fine, take it to higher levels. They become a strong and true couple, telling each other their life stories, opening up more than they did to their deceased spouses.

Addie and Louis do not go unnoticed in Holt. Snide and angry comments and actions come their way from the small-minded, which includes Addie’s adult son Gene. How do Addie and Louis end up? Hey, unlike with Free Solo, I’m not revealing the conclusion, a conclusion that I found to be wanting in relation to what had preceeded it. Still, I give Our Souls At Night a thumbs-up. Haruf, as is clear from his words above, writes beautifully. His style is direct and unflowery, and the book’s characters feel real.

Alex Honnold doesn’t boast about courage in Free Solo. Neither do Addie Moore or Louis Waters in Our Souls At Night. In fact, the three barely talk about it. But they each own courage and use it for their personal betterment, and in manners that bring no harm to others or to the natural world.

(As always, comments are welcomed. Thanks.)

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88 thoughts on “Gutsy People: Thoughts About A Movie, A Book, And The Wider World

  1. ccgoesdutch November 20, 2018 / 12:21 am

    Our Souls at Night sounds like a nice novel to read, thanks for the tip! Getting older does have it’s advantages when it comes to just saying what you truly want to say or asking for what you want. I can also say that it could be we just don’t give a shit anymore what others think. How wonderful is that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. andrewcferguson November 20, 2018 / 2:13 am

    Interesting and thoughtful review, Neil – I’ll maybe give the novel a look, even though I don’t read a lot of fiction these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cathy Cade November 20, 2018 / 2:59 am

    Hell, 70’s no age these days. As for the kids – they need to get on with their own lives. When I remarried, I think my kids were all glad I was getting on with life and not their responsibility (although they may have regrets now they have kids and I’m not local enough to baby-sit.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 20, 2018 / 2:38 pm

      Hi Cathy. Yes, it’s good for all of us, whatever our age, to forge ahead (if possible).

      Like

  4. Jina Bazzar November 20, 2018 / 7:40 am

    I’d probably not even had done that two or three feet.
    I never heard about that book, but ‘your soul at night’ sounds interesting. great reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 20, 2018 / 2:58 pm

      Greetings, Jina. Now that I think about it, I probably wouldn’t be able to do 2 or 3 feet either! Two or 3 inches might be more like it.

      Like

  5. greenpete58 November 20, 2018 / 7:47 am

    Great reviews, Neil. I’m familiar with Honnold. What he’s able to do is inconceivable. He’s obviously not suicidal. I guess there are some people for whom the potential of death doesn’t hold the same terror as for the rest of us. They’re not afraid to stare it in the face. Here’s a story about another rock climber with guts, if you’re interested: https://www.outsideonline.com/2238401/biomechatronic-man.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. eden baylee November 20, 2018 / 8:46 am

    Courage is a societal evaluation, but how one recounts their actions comes down to their own humility.

    Honnold climbed, and Addie and Louis became a couple in their 70s. For them, and for the many others who perform “courageous” acts daily, what they do is simply live their lives. People on the outside can use any number of superlatives to describe these actions — courageous, fearless, careless, etc.

    It doesn’t change what has happened and only highlights what the observer would or would not do.

    Great post Neil,

    eden

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 20, 2018 / 2:44 pm

      Many thanks for stopping by, Eden. Well, Alex Honnold and Addie and Louis all have plenty of internal fortitude (guts/courage if you will). It allows them to do what they do. See ya!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Laurie Graves November 20, 2018 / 9:22 am

    Really good posts that beautifully illustrates how there are different kinds of courage. On another strand for this post, the first time I heard the title “Free Solo,” I thought it was another Star Wars movie. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. lexklein November 20, 2018 / 9:30 am

    I like your connection of a movie I insisted on seeing the minute it arrived in our city and a book by an author I have enjoyed in the past. I had forgotten about Haruf, to be honest – I may have to try him again.

    Now, Free Solo … staggering, huh? I am a wannabe climber (climbed as a kid and still hike where climbers dare), and a Jimmy Chin/Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi fan from the time Meru came out, so seeing Free Solo was an obsession from the minute I knew it was being made. I almost could not wait for it to get here, and we saw it on opening night. Even knowing he makes it, I squirmed in my seat and got all knotted up in the chest. But as much as the climbing action and Alex Honnold’s preternatural lack of fear fascinate me, to me the real drama was in the choice to film such an attempt in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 20, 2018 / 2:50 pm

      Hey there, Lexie. For sure, the directors didn’t know if the movie would end with a triumph or with Alex’s demise.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Still the Lucky Few November 20, 2018 / 11:09 am

    I like the way some authors depict themes like courage, without actually saying it out loud. That is the mark of a good author! I also like the fact that people of those advanced ages can have a loving relationship—no one ever writes about them, though. Hey, Neil, if I ever produce a movie (as likely as a snowball in…), I want you o review it!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ann Coleman November 20, 2018 / 5:40 pm

    I admire people who have courage, as I think they live more fully than the rest of us do. And I am always trying to be more courageous myself. I think I’ll see the movie and read the book for inspiration! (In courage that is, I’m far too afraid of heights to ever attempt a climb like that….)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 20, 2018 / 7:41 pm

      Oh, I think that most of us are courageous, at least sometimes. Maybe not incredibly courageous, but decently so. Enjoy your Thanksgiving gathering, Ann.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. JT Twissel November 20, 2018 / 5:46 pm

    I’m not much for rock climbing movies – I’ve watched someone free solo and it scares the heck out of me. Bravery comes in all different forms, doesn’t it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 20, 2018 / 7:44 pm

      Hi. Not only in different forms, but in differing degrees. Take care, JT. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

      Like

  12. Robert Parker November 20, 2018 / 7:05 pm

    Well ok, you could work in promotions, I’d like to look at both of these now, the movie & the book. Connecting a mountain freeclimber and a book about small town geriatric love is kind of daring in its own way, a darn good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ckennedyhola November 20, 2018 / 7:42 pm

    You have definitely convinced me to see that movie and to read Our Souls at Night. Thanks for these insightful reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 20, 2018 / 8:17 pm

      Hi there, Cecilia. You know, Free Solo has done very well at the box office. I suppose that word of mouth has made it pretty popular. You’ll enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Cynthia Raff November 20, 2018 / 10:24 pm

    I loved “Souls at Night” and recommend Haruf’s’ other novels. He didn’t write many, but they all tals place in Holt, Colorado, and are winderful!! He died a year ago last summer. He is one of my favorite American writers. Did you see the film of the novel on Netflix with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda? Worth watching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 20, 2018 / 10:50 pm

      Hi Cynthia. Good to hear from you. Haven’t seen the movie version. Thanks for recommending it.

      Like

  15. tanjabrittonwriter November 20, 2018 / 11:31 pm

    I had heard of Honnold’s incredible feat, but I have not seen the documentary of his ascent. I might not have the nerves to!

    But I have read all of Haruf’s novels (he was a fellow Coloradan, after all, until his life was cut short a few years ago), and I like the connection you make between the film and “Our Souls At Night.” Part of the movie version was filmed in an old house in Colorado Springs, which was a big deal, but I don’t plan to see it, even if Robert Redford is in it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 21, 2018 / 6:52 am

      Hi. I had a feeling that you’d be well-acquainted with Haruf’s works. By the way, Redford’s latest movie is The Old Man With The Gun. It’s not great, but it’s very enjoyable. Sissy Spacek is in it. Enjoy the holiday tomo0rrow.

      Liked by 1 person

      • tanjabrittonwriter November 21, 2018 / 8:03 pm

        We saw a preview of that movie on CBS Sunday Morning, Neil. It was supposed to be his last, but he has since changed his mind. Not ready to retire!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Gallivanta November 21, 2018 / 3:07 am

    Great reviews. But this is the part of your post which I liked the most; ‘Hell, for much of humanity, simply getting out of bed and facing the day is a brave act, considering the nasty, even horrific, realities facing them.’. Every day courage, day after day, inspires me. Many affected by the fire in California will need that courage (and resilience) now and for months (possibly years) to come.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 21, 2018 / 6:56 am

      Those California fires are a living nightmare. It’s hard to comprehend how powerful and destructive they’ve been.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gallivanta November 21, 2018 / 7:03 am

        I can’t even begin to comprehend! But I know devastation (earthquake) and the time it takes to recover.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. courseofmirrors November 21, 2018 / 4:30 am

    Great reviews, I was thinking of quoting a sentence of yours, but Gallivanta (above) beat me to it.
    And thank you, I thought Benediction was Kent Haruf’s last book. Love the way his writing goes right to the heart. I’m so pleased there is another book. I’m now going to get ‘Our Souls at Night.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 21, 2018 / 7:01 am

      Hi. Many thanks for stopping by. Yes, Haruf had a way of getting straight to the core of the matter. The characters that he creates are plainspoken and realistic.

      Like

  18. Alyson November 21, 2018 / 5:00 am

    My husband’s main hobby is “indoor” climbing and here in Scotland we have many very tall climbing walls. I just couldn’t contemplate him attempting such a climb unaided – Scary stuff indeed. Will look out for that film (but make sure he doesn’t get any ideas!).

    Thanks for the heads up about the book too – Sounds like something to add to the “wish list”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 21, 2018 / 7:03 am

      Your husband has a lot of guts! He’d love Free Solo. Maybe it has made its way to theaters in the UK.

      Like

  19. endardoo November 21, 2018 / 8:21 am

    The book sure sounds good. I’m sure the documentary too. Just rock climbers and their ilk don’t do much for me. I appreciate thir excellence but as someone with little head for heights I find them kind of irrelevant

    Liked by 1 person

  20. joyce hamilton November 21, 2018 / 12:27 pm

    Both sound interesting ! Thanks !

    Liked by 1 person

  21. alhenry November 21, 2018 / 2:26 pm

    I’ve always found it easier to take mega-risks where love’s concerned. Not so great with physical risks though, so I’ll cheer Honnald on from my nice comfortable seat, planted safely on the ground.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. johnlmalone November 21, 2018 / 3:40 pm

    an inspirational post. I enjoy your style. thanks. Three amazing people.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Paddy Tobin November 21, 2018 / 5:04 pm

    Thank you for a very enjoyable read and if film and book could equal your writing I am certain I would enjoy them very much.

    Courage in both, a giant courage, emphasised by the size of the climb and beyond most of us, and courage in the small things of life, more accessible and, in that sense, more encouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. viewfromoverthehill November 21, 2018 / 7:54 pm

    So you’ve had some good reads. Good on you! Reading is one of my favorite pass-times so I’m glad you share that pleasure. Read on……

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 21, 2018 / 8:17 pm

      I have a book recommendation for you, Muriel: I Am The Clay, a novel by Chaim Potok. I read it last month and liked it a lot.

      Like

      • viewfromoverthehill November 21, 2018 / 11:49 pm

        Thanks. I’ll check and see if our library has it. I don’t recall reading it. Shall let you know. Muriel

        Liked by 1 person

  25. theburningheart November 22, 2018 / 11:40 am

    Great reviews!

    I guess that this Alex Honnold, not a kid anymore at 33 years, climbing big walls, is another Reinhold Messner, or Krzysztof Wielicki of climbing mountains solo, Messner made the first solo ascent of Mount Everest, the first ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen, along with Peter Habeler, and was the first climber to ascend all fourteen peaks over 8,000 metres (26,000 ft) above sea level. He was also the first person to cross Antarctica and Greenland with neither snowmobiles nor dog sleds. Furthermore, he crossed the Gobi Desert alone, he has many books.

    Maybe one of these days, a woman like Addie may have the guts to come and knock on my door, but I doubt it.
    Who knows, I may be afraid to open the door! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 22, 2018 / 12:37 pm

      Hi. It’s very good to hear from you. I used to do a fair amount of reading about Mount Everest and other tall mountains. I read one of Messner’s books about his Everest climbs. He is a totally amazing person. His stamina and determination and abilities are mind-blowing.

      Like

  26. selizabryangmailcom November 22, 2018 / 1:56 pm

    This sounds like an interesting two-toned movie balancing the mountain scaling with the blossoming relationship back in town. That woman really does have guts with her proposal–the same kind of guts as Alex but just in a different context. I guess having guts and and acting on them helps one not to have too many regrets later in life!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 22, 2018 / 3:05 pm

      Hey there, Stacey. I suppose that everyone has regrets. But it can really gnaw at a person if there were paths that they truly wanted to take, but didn’t. Unless reincarnation is true, there are no second chances!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Isabelle November 22, 2018 / 3:59 pm

    I’m very impressed by Alex Honnold’s achievement, and his tremendous courage.

    The plot of Our Souls At Night caught me, so is Haruf’s writing style. The extract you picked up brilliantly demonstrated his distinctive narrative skills. I know it’s the right book for me. Will get a copy soon. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Norway but I hope it’s been a good one for you, Neil. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 22, 2018 / 9:25 pm

      Thanks, Isabelle. My wife and I had a very nice dinner gathering with family tonight. We sat around the table eating and talking for four hours. I ate a lot. I’m stuffed!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. cincinnatibabyhead November 22, 2018 / 4:56 pm

    ‘Free Solo’ is going on the list. Thanks. The dialogue from ‘Our Souls At Night’ is really good. Do you think the whole novel would grab CB?

    Liked by 1 person

  29. George November 23, 2018 / 6:04 pm

    Interesting you say that Alex Honnold doesn’t brag about courage. That seems to be the way with rock climbers and mountaineers. I’ve just seen a short Chris Bonnington film, where he talked about achieving the summit of Everest at the age of 50. Far from bragging, it seemed to humble him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 23, 2018 / 6:44 pm

      Some people are well-centered and not in need of adulation. It’s really impressive that CB summited on Everest at a somewhat advanced age. See you, George. Many thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 24, 2018 / 6:22 pm

      Hi AOC. What Alex Honnold does is tremendously impressive. I’m glad to have been able to watch him climb.

      Like

  30. Imelda November 24, 2018 / 10:13 pm

    I thought I saw a show with a premise similar to Our Souls at Night’s. I checked again and found that the movie was titled Our Souls at Night starting Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 25, 2018 / 6:47 am

      Hello there, Imelda. You know, I found out about the movie very recently. Haven’t seen it. Probably will one of these days. Did you like it?

      Like

  31. jeanleesworld November 24, 2018 / 10:43 pm

    Sounds like some very powerful creative experiences to reignite your own inner courage!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. cath November 26, 2018 / 1:21 pm

    This does sound like an interesting film, and actually, I’m glad for the spoiler. When it comes to someone really climbing a mountain without safety equipment, I’d rather be sure they make it before I get involved. I’m squeamish, but I like spectacular scenery.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Amanda On A Small Blue Planet November 28, 2018 / 4:22 pm

    Hey Neal,
    Not sure if anyone has mentioned these two other films as well to you, but check out Valley Uprising (Alex Honnold makes an appearance there too), and Meru (made by the same team that directed Free Solo). In fact Jimmy Chin features in Meru as one of the climbers. Both great documentaries. I’ve yet to see Free Solo, but looking forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Joanne Sisco November 30, 2018 / 3:24 am

    Climbing terrifies me – even the kind with ropes and harnesses. I think I would have trouble watching someone free solo. These kinds of death defying stunts are just too stressful for me to watch, even knowing that they end successfully.

    The story line of Our Souls At Night sounds very familiar. Wasn’t made into a movie?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 30, 2018 / 7:19 am

      Hi Joanne. Right, there is a movie version. I hadn’t known about it until recently. Redford and Fonda play the leads.

      Like

      • Joanne Sisco November 30, 2018 / 7:22 am

        Right! I vaguely remembered Redford but couldn’t identify the female lead. Oddly, I’ve only seen the beginning of the movie so I don’t know how it ends.

        Liked by 1 person

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