Faster, Stronger & Better: Movies On Pushing The Limits Of The Human Body

Inspirational stories of overcoming challenges both within and without.

By Yong Shu Chiang      20 November 2021

From scaling what appears to be an impossible peak, without any safety net, to overcoming the loss of limbs to build a better life, these are real-life stories of human resilience that touch on the pursuit of good health, well-being and athletic excellence.

Most of the following are documentary features based on intriguing subjects, such as the elite free climber Alex Honnold, the disgraced former American football star Aaron Hernandez, and a group of autistic individuals who do not speak, but have plenty to express about their perceptions.

There are also based-on-true-events dramas Beautiful Boy, an account of the struggles journalist David Sheff and his son endured around addiction, and the inspirational film Stronger, about the survival and recovery of Jeff Bauman, a victim of the Boston Marathon terror attack who needed to find the courage to emerge triumphantly from tragedy.

Beautiful Boy

Out now, Amazon Prime Video

Stars: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Amy Ryan

As a father, David (Carell) has high hopes for his son Nic (Chalamet), as he watches him grow up from a boy to a teenager, and into an adult. This father-son relationship, however, is strained when Nic struggles with substance abuse and addiction, starting in his youth. Lurching between cycles of rehabilitation and recovery, as well as relapse and overdose, Nic’s relationships with his loved ones are tested time and again, and his heartbroken father ponders giving up on him.

Free Solo

Photo: National Geographic Documentary Films

Out now, Disney+

Stars: Alex Honnold, Sanni McCandless, Tommy Caldwell

This documentary asks, “Why would a man see a cliff face and try to climb it – untethered?” The rock climber in question, Alex, is an elite climber who sizes up the challenge of El Capitan, a daunting 914-metre rock formation, and has a camera crew filming as he tries to become the first person to climb it “free solo” – alone and without any safety equipment. As Alex makes his historic attempt, his loved ones and the film crew try to come to terms with the enormity of the challenge.

The Game Changers

Out now, Netflix

Stars: James Wilks, Scott Jurek, Patrik Baboumian

In recent years, there has been growing awareness of plant-based diets and their health benefits. This documentary is one of the most influential in the streaming era, providing an enthusiastic endorsement of plant-based eating by interviewing and profiling doctors, experts and high-performance athletes, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. It has since provoked a debate that has some extolling its claims and others challenging them.

Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez

Out now: Netflix

Stars: Aaron Hernandez, Susan Candiotti, Dan Wetzel

Even if you’re not a fan of American football, the themes of this documentary, about a once-celebrated athlete whose murder conviction ended his career, draws links between the dangers of impact sports, degenerative brain disease and mental health. The rise and fall of Hernandez, who once played in the Super Bowl, is seen as the filmmakers explore his troubled family life, his hard-hitting career and the personality changes that lead up to his violent off-the-field behaviour.

The Reason I Jump

Available now: Projector Plus

Stars: Jim Fujiwara, David Mitchell, Jordan O’Donegan

Based on a book written by a 13-year-old boy with autism, this film explores the lives of five remarkable young people, each of whom is a non-speaking autistic individual. Dubbed a “cinematic exploration of neurodiversity”, it has been hailed as a rare window into the sensory lives of these individuals, which can be intense and overwhelming, but also wondrous and joyful. Looking through their eyes, the film offers an inkling of their perceptions and why they act the way they do.


Photo: imdb.com

Available now: Apple TV

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson

The life of an ordinary man (Gyllenhaal), along with those of many others, is irrevocably changed as he is engulfed in the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013. Having only been at the finish line to cheer on his girlfriend Erin (Maslany) at the race, Jeff Bauman survives the attack but loses his legs. After assisting with investigations, he becomes a media celebrity and has difficulty adjusting to his new life and maintaining his relationship with Erin. In time, he strives to become a better person.


SAFRA Tampines Upgrades

Fresh from an improvement, this clubhouse celebrates the new milestone with much fanfare.

Never The Twain Shall Meet?

As two disparate food cultures, Spanish tapas and Asian hotpot could not be more different. Or are they?

Master Commander

Ruminations of National Service and fatherhood.