At the age of 34, former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS and given a life expectancy of two to five years. Weeks later, Gleason found out his wife, Michel, was expecting their first child. A video journal that began as a gift for his unborn son expands to chronicle Steve’s determination to get his relationships in order, build a foundation to provide other ALS patients with purpose, and adapt to his declining physical condition—utilizing medical technologies that offer the means to live as fully as possible.
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★★★★½ review by Aaron Hendrix on Letterboxd
It's easier to make a difference in the world versus the reality of the hardness that it is to maintain relationships.
There comes a point in Gleason where Michel and Steve are lying next to each other. Michel in one bed, Steve in the other. Steve notes that Michel has been distant and hasn't been paying attention to him. As Michel listens, her beautifully expressive eyebrows contort from fatigued irritation to soul-crushing sorrow and, then, once more back again to frustration. At the risk of arm-chair psychologizing, this moment, to me, encapsulated what is so powerful about this documentary. Yes, it's a celebration of Steve's life. Yes, it's a video diary to his son. Yes, it's a documentation of one man's struggle to overcome ALS. But, what is yet more extraordinary is how intimate and thoroughly honest Gleason can be.
At times I felt uncomfortable. It was as though I was peering through a living room window and watching a family struggle with life coming crashing down upon them in slow-motion. This voyeuristic discomfort is what makes Gleason so spectacular. Or rather, the intimacy that this discomfort gives way to is what makes the film so special. By midway through the film I felt like I had seen this family - especially Michel - trudge through hell. The fact that the subjects have no pretension about how trying it all is and how everything is not going well, gives Gleason a strikingly authentic feel.
I give Gleason a 4.5/5.
★★★★½ review by Nick Da Silva on Letterboxd
Heart wrenching yet undeniably inspirational, Gleason is a emotionally authentic look at overcoming adversity and the true value of life.
★★★★½ review by Brian Tallerico on Letterboxd
"It's not gonna be easy but it's gonna be awesome."
Just such a beautiful, moving, inspirational film about why we're here.
★★★★½ review by InSession Film - JD Duran on Letterboxd
A father desperately trying to cope with a fatal illness, while creating a video log for his young son, so his boy will have something to remember him by.
Oh, and in the middle of that he offers hope and inspiration to others suffering from ALS.
Words cannot describe how much this film destroyed me. Absolutely ripped my heart out.
★★★★½ review by Dave on Letterboxd
Not. A. Dry. Eye.
Gleason is an emotionally exhausting doc about an NFL player who is diagnosed with ALS just as he is about to begin a family. Since the disease would eventually cripple him, rendering him unable to teach his child life lessons and be the father he craves to be, Steve Gleason steps in front of the camera and starts recording. As we watch Gleason deteriorate little by little, he imparts his wisdom to his unborn child.
Gleason is a hard film to sit through. It's heartbreaking to watch a man -- once vibrantly athletic and healthy -- be stripped away of his ability to function. It shows once again how much we take for granted for the things we can do.
Depressing? You can say that. But life-affirming? An affecting tribute to the human spirit? Without a doubt.
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