Manager Matthew Dyas has an ideal documentary subject in Fiennes, an arresting character of remarkable achievement, documented through archival footage that makes clear how punishingly brutal the challenges of the adventures were. Some of the archival footage looks scratchier than anything from the last 30 years should, perhaps to emphasize the impression of Fiennes’s performance as associated with forebears like Hillary and Perry, or perhaps just to emphasize the harsh conditions of the locations. The organization of the film, which jumps back and forth in time, is distracting. But the subject matter is never less than riveting.
Fiennes doesn’t try to explain his expeditions with heroic “because it’s there” rhetoric. He simply says he did it “to pay the gas bill.” But the film does not back downm consideration of the white privilege that enabled the baronet to make a life of exploring. He may need money, but he understands that it is not the same as being poor. His thousands of sponsors include a man who kindly gives him an office job for ten years, with three months off each year for expeditions. Another sponsor is Prince Charles.
When Fiennes returns to the North Pole, we also briefly see through his eyes the impact of climate change.
It’s touching to see Fiennes, almost a parody of the strong, silent hero, described as “a piece of granite right down to the heart”, so completely devoted to his childhood sweetheart Ginny, who was his full partner in the planning. and get the funds for all his expeditions. Their hug when he’s rescued, almost frozen, almost starved, is all the more endearing because it’s a glimpse of the depth of his feelings we don’t see again until Ginny is gone. For the first time, his motto is, from The golden journey to Samarkand, “always a little longer,” can’t get him to move on. Until he does, and finally grants Ginny’s greatest wish for him. He embarks on the most universal of journeys, and yet one of the scariest adventures of all. He’s going to be a father.
Now available on digital platforms.