By: Mark Barber
The Oscar-nominated doc Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me follows the title legendary country singer through both his final tour and his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Necessarily poignant (if artificial) and urgent about the subject and his inevitably fatal illness, the film still occasionally struggles with the presence of exploitation.
Numerous interviews with family, friends, and celebrities set up a touching rumination on the ineluctable flow of time. But the oft-witty Campbell serves as a buffer in many these scenes, such as his lighthearted comments as he fails to recognize himself or his family members in old movies.
Those who aren’t fans will likely find the doc’s formal delivery fairly conventional: a mix of archival footage, (reasonably emotional) interviews, and footage from the tour. Given Campbell’s diagnosis, he and his family are represented in the most generically positive of terms. Those non-fans salivating for a scandalous take on the Campbell family will have to look elsewhere.
The film’s stated political goal is to guarantee more research funding for a cure for Alzheimer’s. The film’s frequent intermingling of the political and personal results in something that feels ethically dubious given Campbell’s state-of-mind. The interviewees posit that it’s “brave” of him to not only participate in the film but to be performing in front of an audience given the circumstances. Such instances bring into question the personal motivations on the part of the filmmakers and his family.
Cynical remarks aside, while some might consider the film exploitive, for fans it will come across as a thoughtful final goodbye to the legendary singer, and provide vital awareness of Alzheimer’s disease.