Sunday, September 27, 2015

I'll Be Me: Film Review

Released 24 October 2014.
After experiencing some difficulty with his memory for several years, Glen Campbell received a formal diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease in 2011 at age 75.

About the same time as this diagnosis, Glen Campbell and his wife, Kim Campbell, invited a camera crew to film "behind the scenes."

The resulting documentary--Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me (2014)--is a tribute to this musical legend and an honest-yet-dignified view of the challenges of living with Alzheimer's Disease.

The documentary is filmed over about a year and a half; however, clips of performances over several decades are included as well.

The resulting documentary is a blend between a celebration Campbell's career and an exploration of how Alzheimer's affects a person's day-to-day life.

With an awareness that his ability to perform will soon grow too challenging, Campbell and his band embarked on a concert tour. The initial run was going to be fairly brief, but the tour ended up running from August 2011 to November 2012 with 151 performances.  The tour ended when Campbell's family concludes that it's growing too difficult for him.

In the documentary, Campbell's doctors note how Campbell's passion for music probably delayed the ravages of Alzheimer's Disease for a time.  Ultimately, the disease overpowers people, since there is no cure--yet.

But until that point of defeat, the documentary shows how Campbell had incredible support from family, friends, band members, crew, agent and his record company in his efforts to complete such an arduous farewell tour.

It's clear that music is central to Campbell's life.  He possesses such great musical talent that he plays the guitar with amazing dexterity, even while struggling to recall the names of his three youngest children--Cal, Shannon and Ashley--who are members of his band.

It was heartwarming to see Campbell perform, to see his strong support system, and to see audience members respond to him with such affection and understanding.

But I'll Be Me isn't an unabashed feel-good movie.

During the last twenty minutes, I frequently cried.  We witness a man of great talent reaching to grasp what is moving away from him. We witness his wife and children gaze at him tenderly while trying to decide if the pleasure of making music can outweigh the confusion of managing the complex task of performing at a concert.  We see about a dozen musicians praise Campbell while understanding the difficult days ahead of him, given that they have parents or grandparents who lived with Alzheimer's Disease.  Brad Paisley's interview in particular touched my heart.

And we hear lyrics to new songs that chronicle this ordeal.  Here is just one such song. This is Campbell's last studio recorded song: "I'm Not Gonna Miss You."

Finally, this documentary reframes old songs with a new view. I will never hear "Gentle on My Mind" the same way again.

It's frightening to think of how difficult life is for people with dementia and for their caregivers. Even with the enormous resources available to the Campbell family, Alzheimer's Disease still overwhelms them. Imagine how difficult life is for thousands of less fortunate families trying to support loved ones with dementia.

I can only hope that science--with the support of funding from a variety of sources--can eventually find a cure.


Films about Alzheimer's Disease
Books about Dementia
Love & Mercy: Film Review (biopic of Brian Wilson)


  1. I saw this super-touching movie, too. My father had dementia and I don't usually watch these, but this one ... well, I did.

    1. I thought it showed great balance between showing the challenges of dementia while also preserving Campbell's dignity. I've been listening to his songs every day since watching this documentary. I didn't realize he was such a virtuoso on the guitar until watching his documentary. Such skill! Hugs to you over the loss of your father--twice. Once to dementia, and once when he passed. It's such a hard road for the whole family. Hugs and hugs.

  2. I only saw parts of the movie and it is a tear jerker. My Mother has dementia and it is a horrible disease. I admire Glen and his family for putting themselves public.

  3. Randy and I watched it...amazing. How difficult he became as the movie went on. It really showed the advancing, and unpredictability, of the disease.

  4. The movie handled a very sad, difficult disease in such a beautiful, touching way. Losing a loved one is difficult enough, losing a loved one to dementia is a whole other story -- and song.

  5. Sounds like an incredible movie - will have to keep that in mind. Thanks for the review!

  6. I haven't seen this yet but hear wonderful things about it. I always loved his music. Such a loss.

  7. Movies like this one always depress me bc my dad suffered from dementia before he passed but I like him so I'll watch it for sure.

  8. Excellent movie. I, too, cried quite a bit while watching the documentary. So very sad to see the decline. Glen Campbell music was quite popular in my childhood home, so he always makes me think of my dad. I'm sure my dad would cry pretty hard if he watched this; thankfully he'll surely miss hearing about it and never see it.

  9. Since childhood I have heard Glen Campbell and have always enjoyed his music. It is no surprise to me that music plays such a vital role in our lives. I have no seen the documentary yet. Thank you for sharing this

  10. I haven't seen this movie but plan to. My paternal grandmother had a long struggle with Alzheimers.

  11. My dad had Alzheimers and I know how difficult it can be. I'd love to see this movie.