Review: BETHANY HAMILTON: UNSTOPPABLE Is A Beautifully-Told Documentary


Equal parts sports documentary and biography, Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is one of the most inspiring and gorgeous documentaries you will see all year.


Entertainment Value
Technical Merit

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is a new documentary telling the powerful story of the eponymous professional surfer whose experience of getting her arm bitten off by a shark was previously chronicled in the biopic Soul Surfer. However, this documentary focuses on how Hamilton recovered and conquered her disability to become a successful athlete.

Hamilton’s story is undeniably inspiring, hence why the film Soul Surfer was such a hit with audiences when it came out. This movie wisely chooses not to spend too much time on the tragedy with the shark, though, as a majority of audiences who see this film will already know most of that story. Instead, we spend more time with Hamilton as an adult, making the movie feel like a perfect epilogue to the biopic.

Perhaps the most admirable thing about Hamilton is the level of perseverance she shows despite all the obstacles she faces. Over the course of the film, we follow Hamilton as she tries to continue her surfing career after the accident, even after she becomes a mother. After the movie is over, it is obvious that she earns the title of this movie, as she truly is unstoppable.

Aspiring athletes and people in general should be empowered by Hamilton’s story. If she can achieve this much success despite the trauma she faced, what prevents us from doing the same? The film’s ultimate message is that, with hard work and dedication, we can do anything to which we set our minds. Even though this is a common message, it is one that needs to be heard nonetheless.

Additionally, there is a great deal of emotion in this story. Hamilton and her family are developed in an extremely sympathetic way over the course of the movie and it is easy to get emotionally invested in their story. It is heartwarming to see Hamilton’s friends and family encourage her, both through the footage we see of her training and competing and through the interviews.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a good surfing documentary if there wasn’t some great surfing, and this film definitely delivers in this regard. Although the focus is more on Hamilton’s personal life and recovery, we do get some glimpses into her competitive career. The movie is able to play these competition scenes out in a way that is suspenseful and exciting, leaving you in anticipation as to whether or not Hamilton is going to succeed.

Furthermore, this film has to be one of the most beautiful documentaries of the year so far. The director/cinematography Aaron Lieber specializes in surf photography, and some of the shots he gets are truly awe-inspiring. The beauty of the waves is indescribable and a sight that needs to be seen on as big a screen as possible. Lieber then edits the movie and uses a soundtrack that helps give the film a natural rhythm, allowing the movie to be both entertaining and beautiful.

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is an all-around impressive documentary. From beautiful surf cinematography to the heartwarming and inspiring story, this is a must-see for anyone who is interested in sports or if you are looking for an uplifting film to watch.

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is now playing in select theaters.


Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.


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