Documentary Review: Val (2021)

Release Date: July 7th, 2021 (Cannes)
Directed by: Ting Poo, Leo Scott
Written by: Val Kilmer
Music by: Garth Stevenson
Cast: Val Kilmer, Jack Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Mercedes Kilmer, various

Cartel Film Production, Boardwalk Pictures, IAC Films, A24, Amazon Studios, 109 Minutes

Review:

I have always liked Val Kilmer. As a kid, he was the cool, smart guy I wanted to be in Real Genius. Then he was the cool badass in Top Gun. After that, he was the coolest of all his characters in Willow. Beyond that, I loved him in just about everything.

Over the years, his roles have been fewer and fewer and not too long ago, he was diagnosed with throat cancer, which he beat, but chemotherapy and two tracheotomies had a very adverse effect on his speaking voice.

Kilmer had a reputation of being difficult to work with and a perfectionist. While I’m sure there’s a lot of truth to that and Kilmer has admitted to being difficult, at times, these things are usually overblown in the media and people tend to believe the narrative creating something more akin to legend than reality.

Unbeknownst to most, Kilmer has filmed his life since before he started acting. He has thousands of hours of footage and over the last decade, he started having everything backed up digitally, to preserve it, as best he could. During that process, it was decided that maybe he should put it all together in a way that would allow him to tell his own story.

Since Val has a hard time speaking, he wrote the narration for the film but had his son Jack read it. I thought that this worked quite well and it allowed Val’s words to flow from the mouth of someone close to his heart and his legacy.

Overall, this was a damn good story and I’m glad that Kilmer was able to work on something in spite of his condition and his physical limitations. This was a really personal and emotional story that allowed Kilmer to address his critics, shed light on things from his past and showcase his life from his point-of-view.

With that, there’s obviously going to be a bit of bias in the film but I think that Kilmer is pretty open about his feelings, his thoughts, his motivations and revealing the lessons he’s learned throughout his pretty interesting life.

Most importantly, this was engaging and entertaining. Beyond that, it was a very human story and while some may see Kilmer now and feel like his best days are behind him, I think the man has a pretty bright future ahead of him due to how he’s adapted well to his adversity and because of the love of those around him.

Rating: 8/10