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Stars: Documentary

Director: Clay Tweel

A moving, inspiring but gruelling documentary about a top American football player, Steve Gleason, and his battles with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease), first brought into common knowledge in the 1942 film Pride of the Yankees, in which Gary Cooper played the original Gehrig.

Similar in some ways to motor neurone disease, ALS progressively deprives the sufferer of the ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe. The average life expectancy is two to five years, but Gleason, who was diagnosed in 2011, three years after retiring from football, is still alive today, albeit in a specialised wheelchair, and with equipment that enables him to communicate much in the style of Stephen Hawking.

The film itself which, though always emotional, is also hard going at times, is his blog-diary record, both of his early years and marriage to his devoted wife Michel, and of the subsequent progression of the disease. It is, as he explains on cameras, an attempt to 'give you as much of myself while I can.'

Meanwhile, his huge charitable efforts have resulted in the Steve Gleason Act, which allows all ALS sufferers access to the kind of treatment he himself has received. His film is intense, but life-affirming.

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Arrow Films. Colour.
111 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 15 Mar 2017