Review: Three Netflix documentaries to cure winter boredom

Gabe Curtis, Focus Editor

Over the course of winter break, my lack of desire to do anything productive and mounting boredom led to a spree of Netflix documentary consumption that some may consider to be unhealthy. That being said, here are my favorites: 

“My Octopus Teacher”

This Netflix documentary, released in 2020, was a pleasure to watch. Its stunning capture of the untamed ocean left me enthralled, captivated and a little terrified of the deep blue sea. Watching this 85 minute documentary left me with a feeling of reflective calm as well as a deep respect for nature and its unseen influence on our lives. 

The documentary follows Craig Foster, an intelligent film creator who retreated to the isolation of South Africa after spending months in the deserts of Africa filming a documentary.

Foster, the subject and narrator of this film, was an interesting and distinctive person with a really unique perspective on his own life and his unusual connection to the ocean. His devotion to the study and understanding of the ocean and this one particular creature was admirable. 

Inspiring music and personal anecdotes from the narrator made this documentary a very intimate affair. At times, it almost begins to feel like a conversation. 

For fans of nature and beautiful scenery, “My Octopus Teacher” is perfect in every way. 


“Icarus,” released in 2017, explores the story of Brian Fogel, an amateur cyclist who begins to recognize the growing prevalence of doping, or consuming performance enhancing drugs to attain higher levels of


strength and athleticism. 

What separates this study from many others is that Fogel elects to partake in doping himself, tracking the minutiae of his experience every step in the way, in an attempt to prove that tests used on world class athletes do not prevent them from doping. 

“Icarus” was a very surprising documentary to watch because it had never occurred to me that the testing process for performance enhancing drugs could be circumvented by government agencies. 

Throughout this documentary, I felt a sense of appreciation and respect for Fogel, who placed himself in a situation of discomfort and potential danger in order to discover the truth about doping. 

As the documentary reveals many secrets about the major competitors of the word and their ideologies to the viewer, creating a sense of constant curiosity that was very engaging. 

With a lighthearted tone and an eccentric set of characters, permeated by intense moments of transparency,  this documentary was in some ways quite bewildering. Hard-hitting revelations about the secret world of international athletic competition makes “Icarus” a great documentary for fans of conspiracy and intrigue.

“The Alpinist”

Capturing the hidden life of adrenaline-seeking mountain climbers, “The Alpinist” explores the life of Marc-André Leclerc, a free climber who was previously unknown outside of the free climbing world. 

This documentary explores the achievements, setbacks and contributions of Leclerc and his individualistic take on the sport of free climbing, or climbing without a rope and harness.

Universal Pictures

Leclerc’s attitude towards climbing struck me profoundly. He didn’t desire notoriety or fame, and even denied the camera crew the opportunity to join him on some of his solo climbs because he was more interested in the way it made him feel as an individual. For Leclerc, the only thing that mattered was the experience of climbing.

Ultimately, I thought the documentary was beautiful, well made and very comprehensive in its exploration of the free-climbing community and Leclerc’s place in it. I consider Leclerc to be an admirable person with a variety of skills that were really interesting to discover. 

“The Alpinist” is a great documentary for fans of adventure and nature that I would recommend to just about anyone. 

Overall, I really enjoyed all three of these fantastic documentaries. My appreciation for nature and humanity was undoubtedly strengthened by the wonderful work of the filmmakers that sacrificed much of their time and resources to follow the stories of some of the world’s most notable people. I can say with definite certainty that Netflix documentaries like these are a perfect way to cure that winter boredom.