Val ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐ Review by Andrea Carnevali
Documentary on the daily life of actor Val Kilmer featuring never-before-seen footage spanning 40 years. Currently on NOW TV and Sky.
I never really cared too much about Val Kilmer as an actor even though I was a teenager during the 80s, at the height of his “power”… or at least I thought I didn’t.
What was surprising about this powerful documentary, edited from hundreds of private home videos (Val obsessively filmed himself and everything around him for over 50 years) was the realisation that not only have I seen all of his movies and actually still remember pretty much all of his performances, but the more I watched this the more I grew increasingly attached to him as a man.
Yes, I was also aware of his infamous reputation as a “difficult” actor to work with and I found it fascinating how this film candidly talks about it and how his yearning for people to take him seriously (and his ego) increasingly got in the way of his career.
But this is clearly more than just a self-serving autobiography, this is actually a touching, charming and incredibly intimate portrait of a man reckoning with his past, his legacy and his difficult present.
The film’s credited directors are Leo Scott and Ting Poo but this is clearly Kilmer’s own baby.
It is narrated in the first person, but fairly early on it is revealed that it is actually Kilmer’s son speaking. In 2015 Val himself was diagnosed with throat cancer; he survived it, but the tubes he now has inserted in his throat, which allow him to breathe, leave him unable to speak properly. The few robot-like lines he has in the film are very hard to understand hence they are subtitled)
As a film buff I couldn’t help loving the footage behind the scenes on the set of films like Top Gun, or learning bits of trivia about Batman Forever, which apparently he hated and tells stories about how he couldn’t quite move in the suit.
I loved seeing candid footage of a young Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn, and learning about those audition tapes he made for Kubrick (Full Metal Jacket) and Scorsese (Goodfellas), both of which ultimately lead to disappointment.
This is well beyond a simple celebrity vanity project. The tragic reality of Val’s physical and emotional status, which he doesn’t shy away from talking about, and his very personal stories, including one about death of his 15-year-old brother Wesley, which left a big scar on him, give the film a whole depth of emotions for which I wasn’t quite prepared and I found very touching.
Some of the tales might be slightly one-side. His well-documented bad behaviour on the set The Island of Dr Moreau with Marlon Brando is made to look like no big deal, but overall this was a great eye opener: a poignant, touching and revealing portrait of a broken man with more regrets and contradictions than I ever would have imagined.
In this end this might just be his best film.
Currently on NOW TV (or Sky).
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.
Val is available to watch on NOW TV and Sky.
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