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Gleason is a documentary that follows the decline of former NFL player Steve Gleason, who is diagnosed with ALS shortly before learning he will soon be a father.

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Gleason
Written by
Clay Tweel
Directed by
Clay Tweel
Starring
Steve Gleason, Mike Gleason, Eddie Vedder
Genre
Documentary
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2016

There's a scene in Gleason, the moving documentary about a former NFL player who is stricken with ALS, in which Steve Gleason struggles to complete a short swimming race. Seeing her once robust husband diminished physically – and this is just the beginning; he will get much, much worse – his wife cries, although she tries not to have him notice. It's a heartbreaker, one of many in a tearjerker about an ex-athlete's will to live as fully as possible while suffering from a devastating neuromuscular disease, and his efforts to help fellow sufferers do the same.

We meet Gleason, a folk hero to fans of the New Orleans Saints, as he films a video journal to his unborn son. He knows by the time the boy can speak, he won't likely be able to himself. Over five years we watch his brutal decline, as he attempts to make meaningful connections not only with his son but with his religious fundamentalist father, too. His wife, a fellow free spirit, accepts her duty as a primary caregiver and quasi-single parent stoically. It's a tough watch, but inspiring.

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