Film review: The Wall – Climb for Gold

This documentary follows four women, all accomplished in the field of climbing, as they plan to complete at the Tokyo Olympics.

From Japan, Slovenia, the USA, and the UK, these athletes display many similarities as they chase the same goal: a gold medal in the first climbing event at any Olympics.

There are moments of triumph and self-doubt, tears and successes, family support and journeys which have taken shape from childhood.

Whether in Tokyo, a small village in Slovenia, San Diego or Sheffield, the strength is the same, both mental and physical; the pressure is universal when you are at the top of your field.

The women under scrutiny here are Shauna Coxsey, Janja Garbret, Brooke Raboutou, and Miho Nonaka: young professionals with world titles behind them on The Wall.

Janja Garbret in The Wall: Climb for Glory
Miho Nonaka in The Wall: Climb for Glory

Garbret and Nonaka have gained close to star status in their countries, Raboutou comes from professional climbing parentage on boith sides, and Coxsey is described as “a legend in the sport”.

Their moments of training and endurance are as dramatic as anything else on the screen. The film captures the limits of the human body within the climbing discipline with great style.

This film is completely accessible to newcomers to the sport: I knew nothing about climbing but was entertained as I found out the rules of the game.

I invested in these four women as they worked through strengths, weaknesses, and that catastrophic Covid pause which put everyone’s life on hold.

Nick Hardie’s film captures the tension of perfomance through both Olympic qualifiying and the competition itself.

Shauna Coxsey in The Wall: Climb for Glory
Brooke Raboutou in The Wall: Climb for Glory

We follow each athlete as they train and as they work through issues in their downtime (Janja’s confidence, Shauna’s knee surgery, Brooke’s potential for peaking too young, Miho’s one chance to grab that medal).

The Covid pandemic provides a natural moment of conflict at the mid-point, with everything put on hold for a year.

Families watch with pride – including Brooke’s mother who had been a champion climber in her own right – and expectations run high, especially for Miho whose home crowd expect her to win.

This is an emotional and fascinating glimpse into a minority sport making its debut on the biggest of world stages.

You can rent The Wall on Amazon Prime, Google Play, or Apple TV in the UK; additional services are available for American viewers. Find out about the film here.