Friday, March 1, 2024

“SUPER/MAN: THE CHRISTOPHER REEVE STORY”

THE STORY – Christopher Reeve’s rise to becoming a film star, follows with a near-fatal horse-riding accident in 1995 that left him paralyzed from the neck down. After which he became an activist for spinal cord injury treatments and disability rights.

THE CAST – Christopher Reeve

THE TEAM – Peter Ettedgui (Director/Writer) & Ian Bonhôte (Director)

THE RUNNING TIME – 104 Minutes


Unquestionably, Christopher Reeve is best remembered above all else for two things: his portrayal of the titular character in the original “Superman” films and his work for disability rights and research funding following a horse-riding accident that left him paralyzed below the neck. “Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story” seeks to crystalize his legacy both as an actor and an activist. Thanks to the direction of Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, the well-structured documentary is a moving, highly emotional ode to a hero, told through archival footage, revealing home movies, and interviews with those he loved in his too-short time on Earth.

Wisely, the film doesn’t proceed through Reeve’s life in a predictable, linear fashion. Nor does it spend most of its time delving into his portrayal of the famous superhero. His acting career is given a full examination, from his roots in New York theatre through his work as a performer and director post-accident. “Superman” is obviously a massive part of that, but it’s generally treated as an added detail to the more personal biography, with which the film is more preoccupied.

To illustrate the man’s life story, the filmmakers not only use clips from his performances and interviews but also footage from home movies. This has the effect of painting a complete portrait of the man as both a famous public figure and a devoted husband and father in his private life, even after his debilitating accident. Said visuals are narrated both by talking-head interviews from friends and family, in addition to segments from autobiographical audiobooks read by Reeve himself. This gives the film an omnipresent, self-aware energy, as if Reeve is looking down upon his life with clear-eyed reflection. It’s a wise choice with a significant emotional impact, especially when he delves into the more difficult parts of his life and relationships.

Shortly after his death, Reeve’s wife Dana also succumbed to health issues – in her case, lung cancer, despite having never smoked. This had the tragic effect of orphaning their son Will, who lost both parents within less than two years, all before he turned fourteen. The documentary shines the spotlight on Dana’s work for disability rights both with her husband and in his name after his passing, showing her to be a perseverant, headstrong woman who would stop at nothing to do what’s right.

The film’s most amazing achievement is how it endears the audience to the Reeve family. Will Reeve, along with Matthew and Alexandra – Christopher’s children with his first partner Gae Exton – are all on hand to discuss their father and Dana with the unvarnished truth. They’re aware of their parents as whole human beings and aren’t afraid to express their thoughts and feelings about them. Their honesty and appreciation make the audience feel like a part of the family, which makes the sudden way they departed even more upsetting. Whether you watch this in a theater or by yourself, expect to hear sniffles.

“Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story” is a real-life superhero movie. Directors Bonhôte and Ettedgui admirably wrangle the many tendrils of Reeve’s life into a clear story that’s earthbound in content but – aided by Ilan Eshkeri’s stirring score and some beautifully impressionistic cosmic animations – thematically soars. You honestly will believe this superhero can fly.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Tells an emotionally stirring story about a real-life superhero. Structured smartly, allowing the audience to feel like they're part of the Reeve family and be just as affected and moved as them.

THE BAD - Besides the previously unseen home videos and personal testimonies, the film may offer little new substance for those already fully aware of Reeve's life story.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Documentary Feature

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Tells an emotionally stirring story about a real-life superhero. Structured smartly, allowing the audience to feel like they're part of the Reeve family and be just as affected and moved as them.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Besides the previously unseen home videos and personal testimonies, the film may offer little new substance for those already fully aware of Reeve's life story.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-documentary-feature/">Best Documentary Feature</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"SUPER/MAN: THE CHRISTOPHER REEVE STORY"