The documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me about Glen Campbell’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis was my first foray into the Heartland Film Festival. I realized that this wasn’t going to necessarily be a happy, uplifting kind of movie.
As it turned out, in some ways it was.
The film chronicles the early days of Glen’s diagnosis and his family coming to grips with the illness. Glen had just finished what turned out to be his last album, Ghost on the Canvas, and was ramping up to go on tour.
Now the question was: to go on tour or not go on tour? They decided to attempt it with the understanding that anything could happen. (Eventually, as 2012 came to a close, the family decided to pull the plug on the tour.)
Strangely, as his cognitive functions declined, Glen’s musical abilities, which should have also declined, remained intact. His abilities with the guitar were simply amazing to behold, such as during a dueling duet with his daughter Ashley—he on guitar, she on banjo. The doctors speculated that performing was actually helping him. To a point. Until he wasn’t continually together enough to get through a performance.
The film shows lots of poignant moments with his wife Kim and children Cal, Shannon, and Ashley. More current events are interspersed with home videos and snippets of interviews with lots of people. Some I recognized. Some I didn’t. The film ended with the last song he recorded, I’m Not Gonna Miss You.
I was struck by his upbeat nature and his quirky sense of humor. Moments of stubbornness, anger, and paranoia started to surface as the disease progressed. The family as a whole was quite open with what was happening to Glen and to their family, helping to shine a spotlight on Alzheimer’s. At one point we see them testifying before Congress for more research into the illness.
But in contrast to the dark reality of what the disease does to the victim and the family, there were moments of lightheartedness, such as when his wife explained the unintended effect of upping the dosage of his medicine—which was similar to taking Viagra four times a day. (After consultation with the doctor, they decided to go back to the original dosage.)
The showing I went to was sold out—and for good reason. If you like Glen Campbell, go see the film. If you are a music aficionado, go see it. If you want to learn more about Alzheimer’s and its effects, go see it. The movie will both sadden and uplift you. It is touching to see the love in that family and amazing to see the musical talent. I’ll be looking for the next generation of Campbells to continue what Glen started.
Although he is not gonna miss us, he will be missed.