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Josh Reviews Val

September 29th, 2021

The documentary Val, directed by Leo Scott and Ting Poo, explores the life and career of Val Kilmer.  Utilizing the epic trove of home video footage that the actor has recorded throughout his life, both at home and on the sets of many of the movies in which he has performed, the documentary is remarkably intimate.  It’s also bittersweet, as Mr. Kilmer has lost the use of his beautiful voice due to throat cancer (something I had no idea had happened until I saw the first trailer for this film).  Val is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Mr. Kilmer is without question an extraordinary actor, and I’m a big fan of his work in films such as Heat, Pollock, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and many others.  At the same time, Mr. Kilmer has been someone dogged by controversy throughout his career for being difficult or hard to wrangle.

I enjoyed the film’s look back at Mr. Kilmer’s fantastic career in the movies, and I was also very interested to see some of what his life is like now.  It’s fascinating, and a little sad, to see this passionate, driven performer as an old man, robbed of his voice.  The Val Kilmer we see in the present-day footage of Val is a much more mellow fellow than his “bad boy” reputation of old.  He has had to make a new life for himself now that work as an actor seems to be out of his reach.  That must have been enormously challenging for him to deal with, but the film presents a Val Kilmer who seems at peace.  I wonder if this is truly the case?  I’d like to believe it is.

But of course, it’s hard to be sure because this is not exactly an impartial view of Mr. Kilmer.  While the film was directed by Leo Scott and Ting Poo, it sort of feels as if the film was directed by Mr. Kilmer himself.  That’s the film’s strength, and also perhaps a weakness.

This is not a documentary with lots of talking head interviews.  No, the film is mostly comprised of footage taken from the uncountable hours of video footage that Mr. Kilmer has apparently been shooting his entire life.  This encompasses home movies of his family from when he was a kid (including amazing clips from the elaborate mini-movies that he and his brothers made growing up together), as well as fascinating behind-the-scenes footage of his many movies.  This footage is extraordinary, and it feels incredibly intimate to be given this peek behind the curtain into Mr. Kilmer’s life and work.

The film is narrated by Mr. Kilmer’s son Jack, who reads his … [continued]