Gleason (2016)

gleason poster movie documentary
9.0 Overall Score

Shows the struggle of disease

A tough movie that is probably too much for some

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Gleason

Studio:  Dear Rivers Productions

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  January 23, 2016 (Sundance Film Festival)/July 29, 2016 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

gleason documentary sons birth rivers

The birth of Rivers

Steve Gleason shot to fame when he blocked the Atlanta Falcons punt in September 2006 as New Orleans struggled to return after Hurricane Katrina.  It is what Gleason did afterward that made him a hero.  Diagnosed with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) 2011, Steve begins to chronicle his struggle with the debilitating disease in an attempt to leave something for his then unborn child.  Living with the disease, having a child, struggling with his wife Michel Rae Varisco, and starting a foundation to try to help other struggling with the disease.

Directed by Clay Tweel, Gleason is a documentary which premiered at Sundance in 2016.  The film was picked up by Amazon and released on July 29, 2016.  The shoot of the film also became controversial in that the filmmakers recorded audio of the Saints promoting bounties for attempting to injure rival teams which was made public.  The documentary was met with critical acclaim.

gleason documentary father hug

Saying last words…

The movie does serve two purposes much like Gleason’s life became during this.  It is meant to be a piece for his son to remember him by but it also ends up being a piece to promote education about the disease.  The movie becomes caught in the middle much like Gleason and his family…what should be his cause—help his family or help prevent it from happening to other families?

Despite being about his son, it is Gleason’s relationships that move the movie forward.  Gleason and his wife see how the disease takes a toll on the relationship.  They are a kind of unconventional couple, but even their different relationship is put to the test by disease.  The film also touches on Steve’s relationship with his father which causes struggles with his father’s faith.

gleason documentary wife argument

Struggles of a disease

The movie captures a lot of moments…many of which would normally be private.  The intimacy of the project helps the film and gives it a lot of heart.  You see things that you probably shouldn’t be privy to but it helps you understand the disease.  The relationship between the filmmakers and the family help open the film up more and show the viewers more.

Gleason is a rough movie and shows what the disease can do to a body, a soul, and family.  Steve Gleason goes from a physically fit professional ball player to someone (as he says) cannot control his own bladder.  Despite the horrors and struggles of the disease, the movie is also somewhat uplifting in that it shows human strength and love.  Gleason fights on and in his fight will continue to help after he is gone…which is more than can be said for many.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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