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HomeHealth and Lifestyle‘I Am: Celine Dion’ Review: You Saw the Best in Me

‘I Am: Celine Dion’ Review: You Saw the Best in Me

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Illness shows no regard for even the most revered figures in pop music.

In “I Am: Celine Dion,” a documentary about the global songstress on Amazon Prime Video, it quickly becomes clear that Dion can’t even move her body, let alone deliver a soaring ballad with the full force that, from her teenage years on, roused millions. The film, by the director Irene Taylor, records the singer’s agonizing reality as she battles the rare neurological condition called stiff person syndrome.

In an Instagram post in December 2022, Dion tearfully revealed her diagnosis to her fans, but the documentary had already been in production by then. Taylor opens the film with relaxed scenes of Dion at her home in Las Vegas with her children and staff. Then the part that’s painful to watch: The singer is heard moaning as she has a seizure on the floor. Learning early on that she had always wanted to sing “all my life” intensifies the tragedy of watching Dion, now 56, struggle to continue to live that dream. Dion’s voice made her a star; this film is keen on making her a person.

But there is nothing subtle in Taylor’s montages, such as a high-energy past performance cut with the subdued domestic energy on display while Dion is vacuuming her couch. One shot pans to her eerily empty living room, a severe departure from playing packed stadiums. Even the score aches. All this palpable sadness is, perhaps, why Taylor interjects clips of Dion in better times.

I understand the inclination to not define Dion by her diagnosis. But Dion’s spontaneously expressive personality already shines through her pain in raw footage that feels more connected to her healing journey, like when her physical therapist nags her about a cream she hasn’t been applying to her feet. “Give me a break,” she says with playful exasperation.

She then sings “Gimme a Break,” the Kit Kat commercial jingle. While that welcome touch of humor pulls you into this intimately told story — what’s more Celine than an impromptu vocal? — inconsequential clips take you out of it: her impersonation of Sia on a late-night talk show; a part of her “Ashes” video that lets the Deadpool cameo go on for too long; her career-defining ballad “My Heart Will Go On” but, mystifyingly, the “Carpool Karaoke” version with James Corden.

These awkward segments weaken the powerful emotional atmosphere of witnessing Dion transcend her circumstances. Especially when she lets the cameras stick around, showing some of the most grim health-related scenes I have ever seen of a superstar onscreen.

“I think I was very good,” Dion says about her career. After seeing a sequined costume of hers hung up at her home, the “was” is crushingly honest. But when she sings during a studio session, she still is very good. A final shot shows her as a starry-eyed teenager gazing up at the stage lights. It’s as if her younger self has something to say all these years later: That, if not now, it may all come back to her soon.

I Am: Celine Dion
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. Watch on Prime Video.



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