Big Sky Film Fest: ‘An Accidental Life’ Confronts a Climber’s Tragedy | Arts & Theater

THOMAS PLANK for the Missoulian

My parents’ church is three blocks from Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Craig sits on a small stretch of hill in the Swedish medical center complex, with lots of glass and lots of steel for a facade, which isn’t that far off from a tortured analogy of being an exoskeleton worn by people going there for rehab for severe spinal injuries and need to learn to do the things a lot of people take for granted: walk, bend, stand, bend, stretch.

And that’s where Quinn Brett began her journey into a life different from the one she imagined leading as a top mountaineer known for her fast ascents and bottomless endurance.

On October 11, 2017, Brett fell more than 100 feet on El Capitan’s Boot Flake in Yosemite, shattered his T12 vertebra, cut his head open so much that his scalp required 15 staples to close the wound and suffered a spinal cord injury. severe enough that she lost control of her legs.

“An Accidental Life” is a portrait of Brett experiencing a world in which she could no longer run, climb, dance and jump.

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A camera can’t capture what it means to lose sense of a literal part of yourself – all it can do is show Brett, over and over and over, that she understands the fact that ‘she is no longer who she imagined herself to be and then, again and again and again, realizing parts of herself that she has slowly and painfully grown or discovered through her process of healing and living .

“An Accidental Life” is a documentary that had me averting my eyes from my computer screen more than once because I couldn’t witness the intimacy of loss and pain that director Henna Taylor captured of a woman who, months before, had literally been on top of the world, scaling famous routes like the Diamond on Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, Half Dome, Cerro Torre and other peaks and walls that infallibly capture the imagination of climbers.

Towards the end of the film, Brett and Taylor and their friends return to the Diamond’s base and there are a few silent seconds of Brett staring at the golden granite wall, his face turned up to capture the rays of the sun and the menacing tears. to fall from his eyes.

This documentary is also candid about the struggles people who lose mobility face when it comes to sexual intimacy, love, futures, and the frustrating nature of a body that doesn’t do what it’s told. to do. Brett is going through a grieving process for herself, but also struggles with feelings of being unwanted, fear of never finding someone who will love her romantically, and fear of a future she is still in. stuck in her wheelchair 20 years after her accident.

Taylor’s camera doesn’t flinch at these considerations, though sometimes you wish it would. But if she did, it would diminish the power of “An Accidental Life,” a documentary with the power to change the way a life is lived, or perhaps just viewed.

Thomas Plank is a former Missulian and Independent recording journalist. When he’s not working for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, he’s fly-fishing the rivers of western Montana and considering better ways to expand his library situation, because let him tell you he’s already missing space.

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