Meru - film review (a personal perspective)

Here’s a glimpse into my psyche, after watching Meru, hailed by the National Geographic as ‘the finest climbing movies ever made’. Disclaimer: This is not a review of the film, Meru. This is an after-thought, post-watching the film, which have little to do with the film, but everything to do with how certain elements of the film affected the way I view my life. My thoughts, I would like to stress, have little to do with the outstanding cinematography and production of the film. Meru is certainly a marvelous piece of cinematic work and if you like climbing and documentaries, you should watch it.

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011
The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011

I fidgeted in my seat midway through the film. I took out my phone to check on the time. 75 mins have passed. I knew there was 15 more mins to go as it was a 90-min film.

It surprised me that I would not be gripped at the edge of my seat; rather, I wanted the film to end. But why? Why did I want it to end? Where was I rushing to?

Nowhere. I wasn’t rushing anywhere. I had planned on today to be an easy day of writing. I had gotten two hours of writing done in the morning, and I was pretty satisfied with it. There was no hurry for me to get back to my writing for the rest of the day.

My head was throbbing, like I’ve been punched on the side of my head by someone. No one did, of course. Perhaps it was the way the cinema seat was hugging me to itself and suffocating me. But, there was plenty of air in the cinema. There were only 3 persons in the 300-seater cinema – me, and two other patrons.

After 90 mins, I walked out of the cinema and immediately got assaulted by the bright afternoon Californian sun. As I got into my car and drove home, I felt, at first, anger, and then later on, a kind of ‘I don’t care’ attitude. No, not a nonchalant attitude, but the affirmative feeling of ‘I don’t care’. I don’t care? Don’t care about what? I didn’t know. It was confusing and bizarre all at the same time, and I questioned myself, why was I feeling these negative feelings?

I tried to recall scenes from the film that clutched onto my memory, and summoned the scenes of Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk in their respective garages, with their climbing tools and gears neatly arranged, chipping away at some tool, methodically packing their gears, the massive amount of equipment a climbing expedition required for each trip, the indescribably arduous process of hauling tonnes of camping and climbing equipment and food supplies for weeks in the mountain, and thought to myself: life is an adventure to be had and mess is to be expected.

There is no perfection in climbing. Sometimes there is the perfect situation of a beautiful day, sunny weather, the rocks are solid and not chipped by natural elements, no snow avalanches or strong gales of winds, and everyone in the team is motivated, in high spirits and climbing strong.

And there are days where the weather turns sour with snowstorms that threaten to blow you off the wall at over 20,000 feet in the thin sky, your climbing portaledge breaks, your climbing partner is dealing with altitude sickness, lack of food and depleted of motivation, and every fiber of your being is hammered and giving way to breakage and you are experiencing a mental meltdown yourself.

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011
The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011

I wanted to get out of the cinema because I was not contented to be a sideline watcher. I don’t watch people do things and sit back and do nothing after. I watch others do stuff, then think to myself, that’s me doing it, the next time. I do things. I put myself on the line and I get things done.

My head was throbbing because my inner being was bursting to get out and do something.

I was angry because I was sitting too long watching someone else do something and I am merely watching, and not taking action.

I felt like I didn’t care because for too long in my personal life, I have cared too much about perfection: I cared incessantly if my house was clean and tidy, if my stuff were spotless and neatly tucked away, if the bed was made, the blanket folded, the pillow propped up after use.

Why should about these things? How do these little ‘perfections’ contribute to an adventure in life? They don’t, and therefore, I shouldn’t waste my time caring for things that don’t matter or contribute to a life of adventure.

If my stuff are messy, if my items are worn, tattered and stained, let them be. Life is to be lived, not curated for perfection or display.

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011
The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011

Note: All photo credits go to and are copyright properties of National Geographic and The North Face photographer and climber,

Jimmy Chin