More people need to see this heartbreaking documentary
There was a period when documentaries were climbing Everywhere.
There wasree Solo, of course. This is the most famous example. ree Solo achieved more than just winning an Oscar in 2018, it inspired a slew of word of mouth recommendations from its terrified (but mortified) audience. It was huge!
Butree Solo wasn’t alone. That same year, Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer released The Dawn Wall, a fictionally produced documentary focusing on the first free ascent of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Georgeson’s last major uncapped face of Yosemite. There were others, too: The Alpinist, currently available to stream on Prime Video, followed Marc-André Leclerc, the Canadian climber who tragically died while climbing the north face of the Mendenhall Towers in Alaska.
Torn, on Disney Plus, is a documentary focusing on Aftermath from the tragedy. In 1999, Alex Lowe, an American edge mountaineer, was caught in an avalanche on Mount Shishpangma in Tibet. And his climbing partner, the legendary Konrad Anker, who accompanied him on that trip, narrowly escaped the same avalanche.
After Lowe’s death, Anker committed himself to the care of Lowe’s wife and children in the event of Lowe’s death. Incredibly, in the aftermath of Louie’s death, Anker’s widow and Louie fell in love. Eventually the pair raised Lowe’s young children together. Today, all of Louie’s children now call Conrad Anker “Dad”.
Torn is an intricate and meticulously crafted documentary about that journey and its effects.
Directed by Alex Lowe’s eldest son, Max Lowe, Torn is a personal story, primarily about the impact of high-stakes adventure sports and the gaps left behind when a dear family member suddenly dies. He also asks tough questions about his subjects: Why risk dying when a family of young children is counting on you?
Director Max Lowe obviously idolizes his now deceased father, but he also idolizes Anker, the man he adopted after his father’s death. Anker continues to climb after first witnessing Louie’s death. This is another thread that weaves through this documentary: How does Anker walk the tightrope? How justified? His death will no doubt crush an already fragile family unit, yet he continues to climb the steep end. Much of the film explores the need to deal with risks, yet still allows people space to pursue their passions in the face of all that is reasonable.
Regardless, a sympathetic photo of Anker ripped. It’s also a heartbreaking portrait of a family that, more than 20 years after Lowe’s death, is still in recovery mode. The documentary concludes brilliantly. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that Torn is a must-see study in unimaginable tragedy and what happens next.
In spite of Win some prizesTorn never received audiences the wayree Solo or even The Alpinist did, despite being – to me – the perfect companion piece to both films. ree Solo and The Alpinist both grapple with the concept of danger and fatality to varying degrees and both do so well, but Torn delves into these themes in a way those films never could. or that reason alone, it’s a must-watch. Quick warning upfront: it will break your heart.