Directed by Clay Tweel
On September 25, 2006, the New Orleans Saints returned to their home turf, the Superdome, nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina had turned it into a sad, makeshift refugee camp for thousands of displaced families. On that Monday night, New Orleanians needed a rebirth. Saints safety Steve Gleason, a small, Rudy-esque standout who played his college ball with the Washington State Cougars, gave them just that when he blocked a punt that led the Saints to their first touchdown since Katrina. Gleason had New Orleans’ back. Five years later, Gleason needed the city to have his back. In 2011, Steve Gleason was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). And just six weeks after his diagnosis, he discovered his wife, Michel, was pregnant with their first child. Knowing he wouldn’t be around to see his child grow up, Steve began a video blog to impart wisdom to his son. That, along with interviews with family and friends, became the inspiring and heartbreaking documentary, “Gleason.”
What can I say? If you don’t like wiping tears and snot from your face as you cry your way through half of a two-hour movie, maybe you’re better off not seeing “Gleason.” And this isn’t the work of paid actors overdoing it for dramatic effect or composers calculating which violin at which time will tug your heartstrings most effectively. These are real people struggling to live with their scary new lives. This is a candid conversation between a father and son, or a home video in the hospital after the birth of a child. Steve Gleason isn’t afraid to show you himself at his worst—struggling to control his bowels, crying on camera as he tries to record a video message his son can watch when he’s old enough. “Gleason” stays on message, a message of resilience in the face of adversity. But as much as it inspires and educates, above all, “Gleason” is a portal for you to access emotions you might have bottled up. But then, when it’s over, stop blubbering, wipe away those tears, and contribute some money and time to defeating ALS. Because even though the ice buckets have long since melted, the cause is still very real for many people fighting to stay alive, and for the courageous spouses and family members putting in overtime to keep their loved ones with them. More than anything else, “Gleason” is a call to action. Heed the call.