Movie Review: I Am Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger is gone but in his wake he’s left a wonderful legacy as an actor, director and human. I Am Heath Ledger explores the late actor’s life story and career in greater detail through accounts of family and friends. Directed by Adrian Buitenhuis and Derik Murray, the stirring documentary relays his creative energy, his generous spirit and his relentless pursuit of boundless artistic expression. This isn’t a detective story about his untimely demise but a celebration of his talents and lasting impact on the world.

Getting sincere first-hand accounts from family as well as famous friends, the documentarians assemble a testimony and tribute to Ledger. The interviewees inform the subject, giving us a good idea of just how influential he was in their lives and getting a clearer picture of his life philosophy. For those who knew Ledger from afar, I Am Heath Ledger offers an introspective look at what was important to him, his passion projects and his attempt to be everywhere and do everything at once. The behind-the-scenes video footage adds a personal dimension, not unlike Exit Through the Gift Shop’s Thierry Guetta.

From his teens in Australia, Ledger wanted to be an actor. Yet, he was so much more than that. An artist in every respect, he channeled his creativity into photography and art, constantly filming his days providing the filmmakers with a wealth of footage for inclusion in this quick-paced and informative chronicle. A fan of the Burning Man festival, this event exemplifies Ledger’s soul, his drive to do everything to the full and his love of people. A self-taught actor who commanded a great screen presence through his voice, handsome looks and physicality, it’s easy to see how he attracted fame as an actor.

I Am Heath Ledger

“Behind camera and in front of camera…”

Using photographs, home videos, movie clips, music videos and interviews, the documentarians weave together a comprehensive up close and personal overview of his short yet remarkable life. Growing and learning on the job alongside some strong actors and directors, I Am Heath Ledger shows how the young man developed his craft, refined his talent and kept improving. The documentary covers most of his film performances with personal takeaways from 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot, Monster’s Ball, Four Feathers, Ned Kelly, Lords of Dogtown, Brokeback Mountain, I’m Not There, The Dark Knight and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Without specifically saying it, it’s clear that he was only just tapping into his best work when his life was cut short.

Getting commentary from close friends and musicians like N’Fa Foster-Jones and Ben Harper, we get a window into his musical bent. Hearing from Naomi Watts, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou and Ange Lee, we get a broader understanding of his spirit and depth of talent. Director and business partner, Ben Amato speaks of his entreprenerial edge and desire to constantly be creating. While his agent, dialect coach and family speak to his limitless energy and passion for life.

From opening up his home to just about anyone, struggling with fame, stretching his talents to directing to wanting to become a Grandmaster chess player, I Am Heath Ledger offers a wealth of insights into Ledger’s ambitions and challenges. Remaining quite light in its approach, the documentary grows with his performances as we discover events leading up to the role that would ultimately win him an Oscar posthumously. A veritable rock star, Ledger lived much longer than his 28 years account for… known for calling people in the middle of the night or gatecrashing their breakfast, he was always on.

A thoroughly fascinating and absorbing chronicle of an actor who was gone too soon, I Am Heath Ledger serves as an intimate, respectful, tender and inspirational biographical documentary. Living through his breakthroughs, highlights and self doubt, the experience is akin to paging through a personal photo album and getting some of the magical stories behind the images. It was a sad day when Ledger died, but the enigmatic force of nature that was his life lives on through his performances and those who he inspired and loved so profoundly.

The bottom line: Soulful

Splingometer 7