|'A film of warmth and positivity even when, inevitably, it at times becomes a tough watch'.|
If you're looking for a documentary chronicling country music legend Glen Campbell's entire career, which now spans seven decades, Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me is not that film. Much of Campbell's heyday during the '60s and '70s is covered by a whistlestop montage that opens the film, and whilst there are references to and stock footage from this period here and there, director James Keach (the younger brother of actor Stacy) confidently sets out his film as a chronicle of Campbell's life since being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011 and his subsequent farewell tour.
The result of Keach's approach is a remarkably intimate account of Campbell, his wife and children coming to accept his condition, as well as the family's chance to celebrate his legacy and hopefully allow him to leave his performing career on a high. Campbell's sense of humour and overwhelmingly upbeat nature (we only see him openly "feeling blue" once) are infectious throughout, making I'll Be Me a film of warmth and positivity even when, inevitably, it at times becomes a tough watch.
Musically, Keach's film is rich and rewarding, never becoming the car crash that one interviewee predicts some attending the shows in Campbell's final tour may have been expecting to see. The ability the musician retains as he approaches octogenarianhood with a neurodegenerative disease is astounding; a spirited rendition of Duelling Banjos on stage with his daughter Ashley offers a particularly memorable highlight. The fact that his doctors tell Campbell his decision to continue performing is slowing the onset of many of the effects of Alzheimer's makes watching footage from his last ever shows all the more fascinating.
Whilst we never witness the aforementioned car crash, there are times where watching Campbell's live performances becomes a remarkably tense affair. Some of the footage from towards the end of the tour is both uncomfortable and heartbreaking to watch, as is watching Campbell speaking to a friend the day after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 2012 and failing to recall the reason why he had been at the ceremony.
I'll Be Me is ultimately a film just as much about raising awareness of the effects of Alzheimer's as it is about the close of Campbell's career. An impressive array of famous faces from the world of music and beyond recount not only their memories of and utmost respect for the country legend's career, but also of their own experience of family members suffering and dying from the disease. Coupled with the home footage of Campbell's mental decline, this can make I'll Be Me difficult viewing at times; but if that wasn't the case then Keach wouldn't have succeeded in giving as genuine an insight into the experiences of Campbell and his family as he does.
Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me is released on UK DVD on Monday 23rd May 2016.