Gleason (2016)

The documentation of the last five years in the life of former NFLer Steve Gleason flashing forward from the promise of a young football star, the author of one of the game’s most memorable punt blocks through to his diagnosis with ALS and ultimate deterioration is staggeringly heartbreaking, definitely moving, and hopeful, if not for Steve then for humanity.

It’s real—the realness is what stands out and absent are the histrionics that could have taken the film over the top—a story about fathers and sons, a picture of an unbreakable marriage, and a graduate-level lesson in love. And even if there are a couple of appearances by former New Orleans Saints teammates Drew Brees and Scott Fujita it’s not about football at all. It’s about perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds and living the life that one has in front of them to its fullest potential a day, an hour, a minute at a time.

The filming of this true narrative is performed by both the director Clay Tweel and through self-capture by the story’s eponymous center, and his adoring wife Michel Virasco-Gleason. It’s not shiny, but grainy; and it doesn’t especially flow. It’s not one of those documentaries. Still, there are moments and “scenes,” especially between Gleason and his stubborn father and Gleason’s young son, Rivers—the film’s inspiration and reason for existence—that will stick with a viewer for a very long time.

There’s a reason we’re all still alive. The hideous disease can take many things: muscle control, energy, speech; but it cannot destroy the spirit of humanity’s strongest or that of their families.

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