Steve Gleason was a sturdy New Orleans Saints safety who became immortalized in team history when, during the squad’s first game back in the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina, he blocked a punt against the Atlanta Falcons—a play that came to symbolize the city’s indefatigable comeback spirit. Tragically, at the too-young age of 34, and on the eve of his first child’s birth, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS (aka «Lou Gehrig’s Disease»). Using copious footage shot by the former athlete himself (some of it addressed to his unborn kid), J. Clay Tweel’s documentary details Gleason and his wife Michel’s struggle with that incurable condition.
To say Gleason is heartbreaking is a vast understatement, but amidst its tears-inducing horrors, it conveys a genuinely uplifting sense of its subject’s refusal to quit, especially once he endeavors to use his fame to help others with ALS. The story of a man, and family, torn asunder by disease, and yet unwilling to just accept defeat, it’s the non-fiction film of the year.