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I Am Heath Ledger
USA 2017
Directed by Adrian Buitenhuis / Derik Murray
Running time 90 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars


Synopsis: Friends and family of the late actor Heath Ledger remember his life and career.

There is no doubt that Heath Ledger was a charismatic and gifted young man whose death at the age of 28 on January 22, 2008 tragically cut short a life of much promise on every level.  The problem with Derik Murray and Adrian Buitenhuis' documentary about the actor is that it tells us this over and over and, apparently for want any better idea, over again.

Although skillfully collating a host of archival material as it sketches in Ledger’s life from his boyhood in Perth to his career high of The Dark Knight (2008) and his last film, the less well-known The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus  there really is nothing here more than a superficial  reiteration of the central idea that Ledger was possessed of a remarkable creative energy. Oddly there are no archival interviews (of which one assumes that there would be many readily available) with Ledger.

Perhaps the idea here was to reinforce Ledger’s legendary status but that is exactly what is wrong with this film  - there is simply no attempt to go beyond Ledger’s boy-next-door image. Ang Lee, who directed Ledger in Brokeback Mountain (2005), the film that gave his career a whole new dimension, offers the few substantial  comments about Ledger’s working methods (there are no interviews with Christopher Nolan or Terry Gilliam).  For the rest we get a reiteration of effusive admiration from recognizable fellow creatives including Naomi Watts, Ben Mendelsohn and Ben Harper along with Ledger’s family and friends, none of whom do any less that tow the party line. Former partner Michelle Williams, from whom Ledger had split by the time of his death, is only seen in archival footage from their happy early days (the fact that he had a relationship with Watts isn’t mentioned).  In the same spirit there is no attempt to explain how Ledger died, other than acknowledging a dependence on sleeping pills but reassuring us that his death was not intentional.

As a 30 minute artist profile all this would be fine (it was produce by American cable and satellite channel, Spike TV) but nothing about it warrants the 90 minute run-time, let alone a theatrical release.  

 

 

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