Review by Sean Boelman
Val Kilmer is without a doubt a versatile and prolific actor, so it is only time that he gets a career retrospective documentary. Ting Poo and Leo Scott’s Val is a personal and touching film that will move both fans and those unfamiliar with his body of work, perhaps one of the most wonderful biographies to come out in recent memory.
The movie takes a look at the life and career of storied actor Val Kilmer, from his early stage work through his filmography and his recent battle with throat cancer. Kilmer’s accomplishments are undeniably impressive, but what makes this documentary so special is that it found a way for it to be told by Kilmer even though his ability to communicate has been so hindered by his health.
A majority of the archive footage in the film was shot by Kilmer himself as a sort of video diary. This gives the movie a very candid touch that makes everything we see resonate so much more deeply. It genuinely feels like we are getting a glimpse behind the curtain into the actor’s life, which is something so many documentaries struggle to do.
However, this is far from being a puff piece on Kilmer. Although the film clearly (and deservedly) praises his many accomplishments both on and off the screen, it presents Kilmer in a way that is very humbling. Especially when it starts to discuss his recent health issues, the movie hits a lot harder than most.
The other thing about the film’s execution that is really interesting is the narration read by Kilmer’s son Jack. It adds an unexpected layer of emotion to the movie that makes it unique. Viewers will come in expecting to be moved by Val Kilmer’s story, but the way in which the film was made itself is quite touching too.
The movie’s hour and fifty minute runtime goes by rather quickly as there is so much to discuss about Kilmer’s career. Poo and Scott touch upon the biggest moments of Kilmer’s career, from his first screen role in Top Secret! to his big break in Top Gun and of course his (short) stint as the Caped Crusader.
Although the film presents itself as a celebration of Kilmer, it’s really a celebration of everyone and everything that made him who he was. It’s an ode to people working hard to achieve their dreams, and a reminder of how people can overcome even the hardest of adversity. This movie is lovingly optimistic in a way that so many people need to see right now.
Val is an exceptional biography of its subject. It blends the expected and unexpected in a way that is both fresh and moving, resulting in a film that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who loves the movies.
Val is now in theaters and hits Amazon Prime on August 6.