Sydney Film Festival: Super/Man The Christopher Reeve Story

Super / Man: The Christopher Reeve Story Rating

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The directors Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui present the documentary Super / Man: The Christopher Reeve Story to the world and by doing so, they bring him to a whole new generation of people who may not know who he is, seeing that Superman was released to box office success in 1978. Perhaps some people know him for being the man in the blue and red lycra suit, but Christopher Reeve was so much more than these four movies, and we are introduced to the man behind the Superman suit.

Through exclusive archival video footage, and interviews with his three children Will Reeve, Alexandra Reeve Givens and Matthew Reeve, we are given a glimpse into Christopher’s life.
The film explores his early years, as a student at The Julliard School, where he met one of his closet friends Robin Williams. He loved acting, treading the boards on stage in theatres. There is an interview with his then partner Gae Exton, the mother of his two children.

We see him as the family man, now in a relationship with singer and actress Dana, playing piano with Matthew sitting on his lap, bantering with his two eldest children Will and Alexandra and leading an extremely active and outdoor life. Christopher Reeve also narrates part of his biography, and various home movie footage scenes show his interactions with many sports and hobbies. He tells us that he loved horse riding, sailing, gliding amongst the clouds and tennis.

“I’ve always loved flying. It’s my passion in life.” he says. Christopher flew solo twice across The Atlantic. This was a man who lived life to the fullest.

Until an accident in 1995 which changed his life in a split second. Whilst at an equestrian competition in Culpeper, Virginia, Christopher was thrown forward from his horse and suffered injuries which would leave him paralysed with spinal cord injury. He was 42 years old at the time of his accident and would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair and on ventilation needing 24-hour nursing care until his passing on 10th October 2004.

There are scenes which separate the archival footage which show a sculpted likeness to Christopher floating in space. When the accident happens, it was a clever artistic touch to see kryptonite crystals forming on his body.

We witness Christopher’s journey and his loving support from his wife Dana. It becomes a very human story from this point in the film. The family and directors have carefully pieced together the footage to show how Christopher Reeve was a man who, in his opinion after the accident, had lost everything. The documentary shows how scared he was. He went from being a participant to an observer and the audience could feel his loss, especially in one scene where he came home after the hospital.

However, Christopher Reeve was no ordinary man. He was intelligent and he was courageous. He began to want to live, and he credits this to his wife a couple of times. Christopher’s narration of how he became determined to walk again, with painful physical therapy sessions, and his journey to being an advocate for people with spinal cord injury is truly inspiring.

The documentary features interviews with his friends, Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg, Greg Daniels, Susan Sarandon and by way of archival footage, the late Robin Williams and Brooke Ellison, a friend Christopher made who also had a spinal cord injury. Brooke speaks of how Christopher spoke out, to educate people on the hardships people with disabilities face, and to lobby the government to pledge money to be used toward research. Just ten months after his accident, in an industry which was not inclusive of people with disability, he attended The Oscars sitting in his wheelchair on stage and was greeted with a standing ovation.

Together with Dana Reeve, they started the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, dedicated to researching a cure for spinal cord injury and improving the quality of life for those affected and for their families. The three children are actively involved in this foundation.

It is clear from this documentary that both Christopher and Dana Reeve were people who believed they could make a difference and help others, despite their challenges. This is a beautiful and bittersweet dedication to them both, and to love and courage. We are left with the wise words of Christopher Reeve, that the essence of life “is your relationship”.

I saw Super / Man: The Christopher Reeve Story on Saturday 8 June 2024 at The Hayden Orpheum as it was showing as part of The Sydney Film Festival.

Film running time: 104 minutes

SESSIONS: Monday 10 June 6PM
Ritz Randwick, Sydney

Sunday 16 June 2PM
Event Cinemas George Street, Sydney

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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