‘Tell me, am I the best looking guy you’ve ass-fingered recently?’ So asks Steve Gleason, American football megastar, husband, father and motor-neurone sufferer as his nurse slips on the rubber gloves and prepares to manually loosen his bowel. It’s moments like this – frank, unashamed and bruising – that make ‘Gleason’ more than just another triumph-over-adversity disease doc. Steve was diagnosed with ALS (the same disease that Stephen Hawking has) in 2010, six weeks before his wife Michel discovered she was pregnant.
The fallout from both these events is charted in this unflinching film, built from video home-movie footage and video journals shot by Gleason for his son, in the event that the disease claimed his life. We watch as an ailing Gleason argues with his fundamentalist Christian dad over the nature of faith, and we witness the near-breakdown of a marriage. It’s painful stuff, but hopeful too: Gleason has set up a foundation that helps many fellow sufferers live out apparently impossible ambitions. As an insight into the way families cope with adversity this is both razor-sharp and completely heartbreaking.