A documentary by Clay Tweel. Rated PG
Gleason is a documentary that chronicles the life of former NFL football player Steve Gleason shortly after he’s diagnosed with ALS. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, it’s an affliction that eventually robs you of the ability to walk, speak, and ultimately breathe on your own. As the film opens, Gleason is told that, in all likelihood, he has between two and five years to live. He’s 34 years old.
The tragic news is quickly followed by the discovery that Gleason’s wife, Michel—who will soon become her husband’s primary caregiver—is expecting their first child. The feisty, charming, and intellectually inquisitive Gleason decides to begin documenting his life as a way of leaving a lasting legacy for his unborn son.
What follows is based on a five-year video diary that gives us an unflinching look at the highs and lows of Gleason’s life as a husband, father, patient, and ALS activist. Searching for answers to his own flawed relationship with his father, the retired New Orleans Saints defensive back wants to leave his son with a kind of emotional road map to life.
Directed by Clay Tweel, Gleason offers an intimate—and often heart-wrenching—look at the physical degeneration that accompanies the progress of the disease. Much of the film details the strain on Michel as she struggles to keep up with the increasing demands of her husband’s illness.
By the end of the documentary, Gleason is in a wheelchair and has lost the ability to speak. He communicates by using special eye-tracking technology that allows him to simulate his own speech.
Despite these changes, Gleason maintains his deep desire to “push the envelope” when it comes to living with his diagnosis. What inevitably emerges is a portrait of an inspiring couple determined to fulfill the love that brought them together in the first place.