Directed By: Clay Tweel
Plot: Steve Gleason was a professional football player from 2000-2008. After retiring from the game, in 2011 he is diagnosed with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gerhig’s disease. Six weeks late, they find out his wife is pregnant. Steve decides to start making video journals for his unborn son, as a way of leaving a part of him behind, in case he isn’t able to communicate with his son later in life.
What Works: The most emotionally draining film I’ve seen this year. It’s always the documentary that does it to me. I remember watching The Cove, and just feeling like life itself had left my body. Gleason didn’t quite have that effect, but it was really close. I felt completely drained. Gleason is definitely an inspiring documentary about pushing through any adversity, even when you have no more push to give. It’s also the most emotionally draining, because it’s incredibly hard watching these people go through this. One particular scene, where Steve is struggling to poop, just crushes you. First off, he’s trying to poop, with the assistance of multiple people… then you realize he’s also allowing this to be filmed. He’s giving up his dignity so that people can see the struggle with ALS. This is so much more than an ice bucket challenge.
What Doesn’t Work: Honestly, despite being impactful, it was too long. Because it ran for almost two hours, it had pacing issues, and more than a few moments where it felt repetitive, or like we were jumping around. It’s one of the most confusingly edited films, and I give a partial pass because I know they’re working a lot from Steve’s personal video diaries, and not a professional film crew. I can’t help but think the film needed a second pass from a different set of eyes that could have tightened this film up by 10 minutes before releasing it.
Final Word: It’s such a hard to watch movie that I find it hard to recommend. I think some critics found it uplifting, which I didn’t. Inspiring and uplifting are two different things. Yes, Steve Gleason has inspired me, but the film itself if an emotional rollercoaster with a lot of downs. See with a box of tissues.
Final Grade: B+