Film Review: Gleason

Sometimes moving and sometimes amusing, director Clay Tweel’s Gleason is an absorbing portrait of life.

Former professional American football player Steve Gleason is diagnosed with motor neurone disease before the birth of his child. He starts to make a video diary for his unborn child, whilst his family and friends raise money for other MND patients…

Clay Tweel’s film works towards two parallel themes; the portrait of a man and his family, and a portrait of the effects of MND. Both of these focuses work very well in Gleason. The film is told through home video filmed by Steve and his family since receiving the diagnosis. This gives both an amazing level of access, and an intimacy which is important to the authenticity of the film.

The film concentrates on its protagonist as person rather than a former American football star. Whilst his career does play a part, what dominates is his relationship with his family. Particularly interesting is his relationship with his father. Tweel’s film shows the development of this relationship, through both the interviews conducted by Steve and other footage. It provides a different perspective to the support of other friends and family. Moreover, as the film is a letter to Steve’s son, the father-son dynamic is critical, and gives a greater understanding of both individuals.

Steve’s relationship with his wife is sometimes lovely to watch, at other times the strain in apparent. The most striking thing about the film is its authenticity. The effects of MND are apparent through Steve’s decline. Also revealing to those less familiar with the condition are the procedures which are available. Fundraising and charitable activity appears to be key to Steve’s drive. His desire to help others with condition is commendable, and this facet reveals a lot about his character.

Gleason is an engaging documentary; the authenticity it conveys makes for a strong film.