I Am Heath Ledger (2017) Blu Ray & DVD (Dazzler Media)
A look at an all-too-brief career
This documentary looks at the Hollywood career of Australian actor Heath Ledger as well the boundlessly energetic and creative person behind the stellar image. Directors Adrian Buitenhuis and Derik Murray have pulled together footage from some of the actor’s movies and personal video diaries along with interviews involving a selection of family members and former friends. Amongst them are musicians Ben Harper and Nfa Foster Jones (whom Ledger directed music videos for), director Ang Lee and fellow Antipodean expats Naomi Watts and Ben Mendelsohn.
The result is a touching and eye-opening portrait of one of the most sadly missed of Hollywood performer.
Watch a trailer:
The brightest flame burns quickest
On the 22nd January 2008, Heath Ledger passed away - at the age of just 28 - after an overdose of drugs prescribed to help with his condition of chronic insomnia. It was a tragic loss of a talented, dedicated artist who left behind a memorable body of acting work including Brokeback Mountain (2005) and his iconic role as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008).
However, while he is most remembered for his acting roles he clearly had several passions and talents that could have resulted in an even richer and more fascinating resume. He was a keen photographer who kept a huge series of snapshots from various times in his life all over his home., He had a love of music; he played acoustic guitar and was a huge fan of Nick Drake - another artist who, eerily, passed away at an incredibly young age due to a drugs overdose. Judging from a series of clips here, he also had an evident visual eye when directing music videos. Shortly before his death, he even had plans to direct a film entitled The Grandmaster, reflecting yet another of his preoccupations: chess.
The documentary has a warm glow about it that only highlights the sadness of his loss. The highlights are, of course, the clips of his various home videos, one of the most memorable being one showing him perfecting his Joker act. The array of family and friends here all speak very highly of him, painting a portrait of a full-on but incredibly generous spirit who loved to be surrounded by friends. At the same time, they reflect on a few pointers that all was not well with the man.
If there’s a slight criticism of I Am Heath Ledger it is that it does skip a little too abruptly over some details. There’s one moment when actor Djimon Hounsou tearfully recollects that he noticed now he changed towards the end of his life but never really goes into details about how. His relationships with the various women in his life (including Lisa Zane and Michelle Williams) are more lightly touched upon than properly explored. The documentary also largely omits the early Australian leg of his acting career, when he worked on several TV shows including the popular Home and Away as well as some films such as Two Hands (1999).
Overall, however, it’s a fine portrait of a bright flame who, alas, burnt far too quickly.
Runtime: 90 mins
Dir: Adrian Buitenhuis, Derik Murray
Script: Hart Snider
Featuring: Heath Ledger, Ben Harper, Kim Ledger, Sally Bell, Kate Ledger, Nfa Foster Jones, Naomi Watts, Ben Mendelsohn, Ang Lee, Djimon Hounsou
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
While limited by the varying quality of the original footage (there’s some home camcorder stuff from the 2000s), this disc, at its best, is very polished. There’s a yellow warmth to the interview footage that’s appropriate to the overall tone.
More stories from family & friends
This 24-minute collection of unused interview and video diary footage is the only extra bar the obligatory trailer. That said, it is a good one. We get some more details about Ledger’s childhood, another of his obsessions (skateboarding) his various personality traits. One of the best snippets here is from one of the actor’s one video diary entries, where he describes playing a prank on his friend by pretending to a group of press people that the latter was the star of The Patriot.
It’s a nice tribute to a young man who was clearly a rare and gifted talent.