Gleason has been misclassified as a documentary. It's a horror film, humane to the core, but meant to disturb. We watch the motor functions of a former NFL player atrophy on screen. The film begins with video clips of Steve Gleason's college and professional seasons, in which, at first, he comes across as a typical jock. But when he meets Michel, a free spirit and the woman he marries, the portrait of a soulful hippie emerges. Gleason starts a video diary of their life together, and shortly after their marriage, he is diagnosed with ALS. When Michel becomes pregnant with their son, Rivers, the diary then turns into a series of recorded messages for his son. Steve's entries are increasingly poignant as he slowly loses the ability to move, speak, and care for himself. The camera doesn't flinch from showing a marriage tested by the vow “in sickness and in health,” but Gleason never feels salacious or intrusive. There's also an unexpected subplot that revisits the difficult relationship between him and his religious father's concern for his immortal soul. Ultimately, it's astonishing to watch a dying man plead for the sanctity of his spiritual life. All of his embarrassing bodily functions are on display, but nothing feels more intimate than having dominion over your own soul.
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