Christopher Reeve’s Inspirational Story Takes Center Stage at Sundance
In a poignant and tear-inducing premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the documentary “Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story” took center stage, offering an intimate exploration of the life and legacy of the iconic Superman actor. Directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, the film captivated the audience with a compelling narrative that delves into Reeve’s career, activism, and the transformative event that forever changed his life.
Met with a resounding standing ovation, the documentary skillfully weaves together home video footage, new interviews with Reeve’s children, and insights from those who knew him best. Reeve, who tragically passed away in 2004 at the age of 52, narrates a significant portion of the film through excerpts from his two audiobook versions of his memoirs.
“Super/Man” commences with a reflection on New Year’s Eve 1994, a time Reeve considered the pinnacle of balance in both his personal and professional realms. However, the narrative takes a dramatic turn when, in an equestrian competition in May 1995, Reeve was thrown from a horse, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 42.
The film skillfully navigates between Reeve’s early career in the 1970s, marked by a passion for theatre as an escape from a tumultuous childhood, to the aftermath of the life-altering accident. Recollections from his co-stars, including Jeff Daniels, provide insights into Reeve’s journey from the stage to becoming the iconic Superman at the age of 24.
While the Superman film franchise brought him fame, Reeve’s heart wasn’t fully invested in the sequels, leading him to shift towards stage performances and less commercially driven films. The documentary unveils the pressures and trappings of portraying the beloved superhero, with Reeve stating firmly, “I am not a hero, never have been, never will be.”
Reeve’s personal life, including relationships with British modeling agent Gae Exton and later with actor and singer Dana Morosini, is explored in detail. The film highlights the strains of being in the public eye and the impact on his family.
The narrative intricately depicts the challenges Reeve faced post-accident, affecting various aspects of his life, from bodily functions to speech. Despite the difficulties, rehab and the unwavering support from celebrities like Robert De Niro, Katharine Hepburn, and Paul McCartney became pivotal in his journey.
Advocacy became a driving force for Reeve as he navigated a world ill-equipped for those with disabilities. His impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1996 emphasized the need for support for citizens with disabilities, challenging societal norms.
The documentary also explores the complexities arising from Reeve’s desire to further research into a cure, culminating in a controversial commercial that sparked backlash. His three children play a central role, offering insights into how Reeve’s approach to parenting transformed after the accident.
The film concludes on a hopeful note, celebrating the foundation established in Reeve and his wife’s names, with their children carrying on the impactful work. The documentary leaves viewers with a powerful quote from Reeve, underscoring his evolving definition of a hero in the face of overwhelming obstacles.