Gleason Screen 9 articles

Gleason

2016

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    Sight & Sound: Michael Atkinson
    March 31, 2017 | May 2017 Issue (p. 78)

    If you've bee n involved by circumstances in the culture of ALS survival or any other life-changing disease's social network, then this documentary chronicling Gleason's gradual and defiant descent into illness may feel like more than a movie, more like your own saga, or a welcome group therapy session. If you haven't, it's barely a film at all, and more like a sad reality show built almost entirely from home movies.

  • It would take a person of profound callousness not to be stirred, for instance, by the sight of Steve in his wheelchair, giving Rivers a ride around the house in his lap as the baby coos happily. But the documentary has an irritating habit of depending on this natural reaction within the audience, letting the subject matter do the heavy lifting.

  • Even as Gleason’s situation looks grim, his support system never bails. While not exactly subtle, the movie’s sentimental qualities are genuine. Like the dramatic play that initially made him famous, “Gleason” manages to generate an intense form of excitement around winning against seemingly impossible odds.

  • The assembled moments recording Gleason’s physical deterioration become all the more moving when the film flashes back to him in more able days. Similarly, a brief shot of an empty wheelchair, seeming to wait for its inevitable inhabitant, produces a shudder. In such instances, the movie goes beyond conventional (but very worthy) human interest concerns and offers something more rich and strange.

  • It’s the performance, the screen charm, and the unbelievable honesty of the husband-wife pair that carry the film and create one of the teariest and uplifting cinematic experiences imaginable.

  • While Gleason is the slick, moving, sincere documentary you might expect from this material, there’s something else going on beneath the Oscar-friendly polish: This is a remarkably physical film. Partly, that’s by necessity, given that the very subject matter is a man’s body breaking down. But Tweel goes above and beyond in grounding his movie in the realm of the corporeal, in the world of physical daring, physical success — and physical abjection.

  • Unfolding in bursts of unstoppable emotion, there are innumerable moments in the movie sure to reduce even the toughest viewer to a puddle of tears.

  • Clay Tweel’s heartrending Gleason has real, raw power... It's exactly the kind of film you hope it will be, and Steve Gleason is exactly the kind of humble, human hero we need right now.

  • The whole movie is as unaffected and direct as a documentary can be. Nothing is off-limits here: moments of doubt and fear, disgust at failures of the body, the challenges that a debilitating illness poses to marriage and parenting (Gleason’s son, River, was born shortly after his diagnosis, and figures heavily in the story).

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