2016 documentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Former NFL hero Steve Gleason and his wife live life and inspire others after he's diagnosed with ALS.

There's something so honest about this presentation. Gleason starts as a hero, that typical sort of artificial hero in America known for being fast and strong or for one silly-when-you-really-think-about-it thing. He gets this unfortunate diagnosis, finds out he's going to be a father, and starts fighting, and you really root for the guy because he and his wife are so likable. Not that you'd stop caring if Steve was unlikable. But instead of just painting this guy as 100% courage and heroism, this shows the reality of the situation. That dealing with something like this is impossible, that disease absolutely wrecks life, and that even the most courageous and heroic people are still flawed.

I was touched throughout. I loved this couple, and watching his friends--members of the band Pearl Jam, former teammates--step up brought tears to my eyes. At times, my tears were sad ones, but other times, I was moved by watching what human beings are capable of, always surprising since my misanthropic self lost faith in humanity a long time ago. At times, this isn't easy to watch, not always for the same reasons. I didn't always like scenes with Steve's father, felt something close to pain when Steve and his wife would argue, and wondered if a scene in a bathroom was exploitative. But it all adds up to something completely authentic, and I think it's a better film because of it. Plus, the overall optimism keeps this firmly in inspirational rather than depressing territories.

This was recommended (sort of) by Cory. He included it in his list of top films from 2016. I'd also highly recommend it as a documentary that could easily be about a disease but is instead about a remarkably strong and inspirational couple of human beings.

1 comment:

cory said...

I agree completely with your review. The only other thing I might add is how touching it was when he achieved the goal he had for his son. Something like this is great for putting both movies and life in perspective. The amount of courage and humanity is amazing and humbling, while the film itself never preaches or becomes manipulative. Some scenes are of course difficult, but watching the movie Gleason is worthwhile sort of in the same way the battle the family fights is worthwhile for all of the wonderful moments earned. A 17.