Movie Review: Gleason


Gleason is a documentary about retired NFL star of the New Orleans Saints and his diagnosis of ALS-Motor Neuron Disease. At the same time as his diagnosis he learns that his wife, Michel Varisco, is pregnant with their first child. With a life expectancy of 3-5 years, this prompts Steve to video life lessons and advice for his future son, along with updates of his condition. He’s speech and mobility quickly begins to deteriorate. Battling with caring for a toddler and an ALS patient, Michel enlists the help of Blair Casey as an additional carer to form what they refer to as the ‘Badass Unit’. Steve, Michel and Blair keep the humour alive even through some of the most heart wrenching and humiliating treatments.

This documentary leaves nothing out. Steve also tries to reconcile the relationship with his father who says his son was raised in a “pretty dysfunctional household”. The father and son relationship element is apparent in all areas of the documentary. Between, Steve and his father Mike, with his son Rivers and in a tear jerking interview between Steve and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. It’s very clear how Michel and Steve’s relationship changes. They were so adventurous and happy but towards the end you can see how lonely they each are dealing with either side of the disease.  It is incredibly difficult to see such an athletic hero reduced to such frustration and humiliation but it’s also remarkably inspiring. He travels, checks of some of his Bucket List, leaves invaluable memories to his son and creates the ‘Team Gleason Foundation’ to help patients with ALS.

Vibe: Very heavy but surprisingly uplifting, you'll need a stiff drink afterwards.