Country music lost a real legend last month when Glen Campbell passed away. The chart-topping star was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in late 2010 and six months later he decided to reveal his illness to the world. At the time he was set to embark on a world tour, something he decided to press on with aided by the support of his friends, family and his band. Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me captures his epic 151 show jaunt and chronicles the progress of the disease as he tries to maintain a normal life.
Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me was directed by James Keach and originally released in 2014. Watching the film is a bittersweet experience because you see plenty of glimpses of Campbell experiencing real highs and extreme lows. With his passing still so raw, at the time of writing this it’s been 1 month since his death, the film packs an extra emotional punch. I’ll Be Me opens with Campbell at the hospital having a check up to see if his Alzheimer’s has progressed. With his fourth wife Kim by his side, he’s in good spirits and despite his memory failing on him, Campbell still manages to laugh and joke.
The film captures Campbell over a period of 18 months and it’s remarkable to see how well he actually could function despite his disease progressing fairly rapidly. There’s a real difference from the start of the tour where Campbell manages to use bravado to cover up for any mistakes, to the end where you can see the concern and fear in the eyes of his band as he struggles to make it through the set. One of the questions that the film answers so beautifully is why Campbell went out on the road given his life-altering diagnosis. You can see in Campbell’s eyes that once he’s on stage, he’s able to feed off the energy and the adrenaline to ensure he gets through the performance.
I’ll Be Me features contributions from family and friends, in particular Kim and their daughter Ashley, as well as stars from the Country music world such as Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Blake Shelton. It’s particularly hard to watch when Kim and Ashley speak to camera. Kim shows remarkable strength but you can see the pain and vulnerability in her eyes when she talks about the future. Ashley, who was part of Campbell’s band for the tour, remarks that she’s fearful of her dad one day not knowing who she is. It’s heart-breaking stuff that is handled so sensitively by Keach.
There are plenty of performance scenes throughout the film so fans of Campbell’s music will find plenty of their favourites to enjoy. One particular moment shows Campbell on The Jay Leno Show where everyone worries if he’s going to be able to do the performance without flying into a rage or walking out of camera shot. It’s a triumphant moment as he manages to do it and his joy at the end brought a tear to my eye.
Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me is a moving and powerful film. It not only celebrates the incredible legacy that Campbell has left behind but it portrays him as a man who still manages to maintain a sense of humour despite his disease. Footage of Campbell deteriorating and showing extreme paranoia are tough to watch but for the most part he seems happy and able to carry on some semblance of a normal life. Campbell was a true Country music legend and this film is as much a celebration of his life as it is an exploration of an icon battling a debilitating disease with the strength and courage we all hope is inside us.
Cast: Glen Campbell, Kim Campbell, Ashley Campbell Director: James Keach Certificate: E Duration: 105 mins Released By: Simply Media Release Date: 23rd May 2016