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‘Val’ – Review

‘Val’ – Review


Val Kilmer. Actor. Artist. Poet. Human. For the first time ever this long time veteran of stage and screen offers up a uniquely personal insight into his life and career in candid and open documentary Val and audiences with a keen passion for Hollywood and the people who make it up will be very interested in what Kilmer reveals within this documentary work.

The film follows the life and career of actor Val Kilmer, including footage of Kilmer shot by himself throughout his career, footage of his childhood, and home movies.

Val Kilmer. You know him from such works as Top Gun, Batman Forever, Tombstone, The Doors, Heat, Real Genius, The Ghost and the Darkness, The Saint, Real Genius, Thunderheart and Willow. A long list of different and interesting projects that have fully tested Kilmer’s resolve and passion for performance and which have left him with a long line of fans and admirers. But while he may be the star of the big screen, he’s also been a keen videographer of his own life and has produced thousands of hours of film and videotape that begin in his youth and lead all the way up to now. And in Val he presents a fully 360 portrait of the life he has lead and it is extraordinary.

Now aged 61 and having battled an aggressive form of lung cancer that has left him ravaged by chemotherapy and the presence of two tracheotomies, Kilmer is looking over his life again in Val and we get a true portrait of this actor and artist in his own words. There’s the discussion of a privileged, yet difficult childhood, marked by tragedy and the loss of his youngest brother Wesley. A discovery and passion for performance that would lead him to Julliard. The first forays out onto the Broadway stage and then the knock of Hollywood’s door that would launch him into the stratosphere as a global superstar. And now we get the full picture behind all these stories.

With countless hours of video shot, we get to see a brand new portrait of Kilmer and the life that he has lived. We get to see never before seen footage from some of the biggest films of the 1980s and 1990s including The Doors, Top Gun, Batman Forever and Tombstone, and more importantly, we get to see Kilmer and his fellow performers out of character and making these works. These moments are candid and beautiful to look upon, and you hear the stories behind these blockbuster narratives and what exactly Kilmer’s thoughts and feelings were when he made these films, as read by his young son Jack Kilmer.

We learn of the on-set competitiveness that existed between Kilmer and Tom Cruise in Top Gun. We learn of the love that developed between Kilmer and actress Joanne Whalley on the set of Willow, and which would eventually blossom into marriage and family. We see his dedication to his craft as he creates homemade audition tapes for projects including Goodfellas and Full Metal Jacket, and the meticulous attention to detail of his craft. We see the tension that burns inside of him on the set of Batman Forever due to the film’s blockbuster stature and the comradery that was forged on the set of Tombstone. And all of it paints a very interesting portrait of him as an artist and performer.

Kilmer has been noted as a Hollywood ‘problem child’, something that he does address within the confines of the film. Fuelled by obsession and perfectionism, Kilmer approaches his craft with everything he has and this at times makes him difficult to work with. Personal struggles and differences of opinion also come into play here and the results lead him to on-set tensions and we see this first hand, via his own recorded moments on the set of The Island of Dr. Moreau, a very ill-fated and much-lambasted production. Val truly shows Kilmer in every angle of his life and he does not hold back in revealing who he is, and this honesty is affecting as an audience member.

What is also deeply affecting is seeing how Kilmer has suffered through cancer and the physical state that this has left him in. And it’s a completely heartwrenching sight to witness. Lung cancer has absolutely cut him down to the bone, and there are moments in this picture where it does become all too much for him, with an incredibly poignant and sad moment coming when he is attending Comic Con. It’s so sad to see Kilmer in this state. He has good days and bad days, but ultimately he’s doing well and is recovering step by step with the love of family, friends, fans and his faith.

Val is an incredibly open and honest documentary that examines a life lived and the choices and decisions that have defined it. It’s incredibly moving and heartfelt, and all who witness it will be rewarded with a truly incredible piece of documentary cinema that presents a full portrait of who exactly Val Kilmer is.

Image: Amazon Prime