Val Kilmer has released a self titled documentary, Val, as he intercuts his past with his present. The Academy Awards will be hard pressed to ignore this illuminating documentary of life, while also in many ways being a “subject”.
The Cannes Film Festival was loaded this year with incredible documentaries. Many which felt revelatory, and Val is no exception. Val Kilmer has released the documentary to share the life he documented, while he also peels back the curtain and lets the audience into his life now, as he navigates cancer and life with a breathing tube. The doc largely comprises footage shot by Val Kilmer, who broke through as a scene stealing 26-year-old heart throb in 1986’s Top Gun. The doc lets us in over a span of several decades, intercut with footage of him in the present day as a 61-year-old navigating life with a breathing tube, the result of a tracheostomy that he underwent after receiving radiation to treat throat cancer. Needless to say, the contrast is striking. But the doc, of which Kilmer is a producer, is not a pity party. In fact, it’s an often funny and brutally honest portrait of an artist: someone who early in his career was labeled a cocky, difficult, pretty boy, but who, as illustrated by the footage and its accompanying narration written by Val Kilmer and voiced by his son Jack Kilmer, who coincidentally is the same age now, as his father when Val shot Top Gun.
The truth is the film is less about how Val Kilmer navigated his career, or sky rocketed to a household name. The documentary instead, is about how he navigated his life, particularly after his health took a turn for the worse. Rare are the movie stars who would have allowed themselves to be seen as Val Kilmer does in this film, not only his changed appearance, but also his vulnerability, from getting sick at a fan convention, to the moment when he acknowledges his humiliation at having to relive his past glories in the first place, to continue making a living. Makes you wonder at the changes life can bring you so abruptly and how it affects everyone. The film ultimately feels brave in a way that we suspect will touch a lot of people, particularly those who work in the same industry as Val Kilmer.