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Review: The ‘Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable’ brand is courage and determination

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Bethany Hamilton in the documentary “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable.”
(Aaron Lieber / Freestyle Releasing)

The documentary “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” spends little time on the event that brought pro surfer Bethany Hamilton notice outside of the surfing world — the tiger shark attack that resulted in the loss of her arm — but that’s by design. There’s more to her story than just this event, a fact that she constantly fights against with the same tenacity that had her competing only a few months after her injury.

Composed of interviews, extensive home videos and competition footage, the documentary spans the young woman’s life, beginning before the shark attack and continuing throughout her comeback and impressive career. “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” doesn’t offer the technical details about the sport that might have made its subject’s feats even more inspiring, but even someone who knows nothing about surfing can’t help but sit mouth agape at Hamilton’s athleticism, optimism and determination.

Director Aaron Lieber previously helmed another surfing documentary, “Lakey Peterson: Zero to 100,” and he captures some truly jaw-dropping moments in the waves here with a gorgeous style. At times, those visuals feel less like a standard documentary and more like a commercial, and though the film is supported by the Corkcicle and Rip Tide brands, the only thing that “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” could be an ad for is the surfer herself and her impressive courage.

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‘Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable’

Rated: PG, for some thematic elements

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Playing: In limited release

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