In the sport of American football, a defensive back exists as the last line of defence, a role that requires immense physical ability as well as unwavering bravery. Your job is to navigate through obstacles, be it 300-pound-plus offensive linemen or opposition tactics, before hitting your target with everything to keep yourself in the game.
When diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a savagely aggressive neurological disease, ex NFL defensive back Steve Gleason throws himself further into life. Within six weeks, his wife Michel falls pregnant and, with the worry that his child may not ever meet the real him, Steve proceeds to film video journals in order to leave a digital imprint to his offspring.
Documenting the next four years of his life, the film follows Gleason as he adjusts to this next phase, armed with a highly infectious personality and the ability to laugh in the face of adversity. Always looking forward, the measure of Gleason’s heart is here to see as he spearheads a movement to bring awareness of his condition to the public while setting up his own foundation.
With such subject matter, the film hums with raw emotion in its intimate portrayal of the effect his condition has, not only on himself, but those around him too. Arguments with loved ones are respectfully shown in uncompromising detail; to whitewash these moments would do a disservice to showcasing such a complex situation. It is a piece of work in equal parts heart-achingly sad and deeply inspirational.
As one of the most moving documentaries of recent times, Gleason displays humanity in cuttingly stark detail. It finds beauty in the brutality of existence in the face of adversity, creating a film that stands as a testament to the heart of a person not ready to give up on life, regardless of what it throws his way.
CAST: Steve Gleason, Michel Gleason, Mike Gleason, Scott Fujita, Mike McKenzie
DIRECTOR: Clay Tweel
WRITER: Clay Tweel
SYNOPSIS: At the age of 34, Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS. Doctors gave the former NFL defensive back and New Orleans hero two to five years to live. So that is what Steve chose to do: live. With purpose. For his newborn son, for his wife, and to help others with his disease.