The celebrities we admire so fondly do not often allow us to see them at their most vulnerable. There is almost a facade and a larger-than-life persona surrounding them, and it’s easy to forget that they are just as human as the rest of us. That’s what makes Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie such a tragic but heartwarming tale about one of America’s most beloved movie stars.
Told in his own words, this Michael J. Fox documentary allows us to see him at the peak of his powers, and the effect that international superstardom had on him, but also at his ultimate lowest, in the aftermath of his devastating Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis. It also shows us the setbacks he has endured in the decades since he was diagnosed, and the obstacles he has overcome as a result.
Full disclosure, Back to the Future is my favorite movie of all time, so Michael is incredibly important to me. His outing as Marty McFly set a benchmark for just how cool a character could be, and I have no shame in admitting that I almost certainly modelled a lot of my teenage persona after the time traveler, so going into this Michael J. Fox documentary, I expected to cry a lot, and while I did shed some tears, they weren’t for the reasons I anticipated.
This isn’t just a Michael J. Fox documentary about Parkinson’s disease
As a Michael J. Fox documentary, it would have been easy for director Davis Guggenheim to focus solely on Michael’s disease, and the setbacks it caused him, but he manages to craft a soul-stirring, inspiring look at how the actor rocketed to superstardom in the early 1980s, before bouncing back from rock bottom following his diagnosis and even the positives that have come out of it.
The director does a wonderful job focusing on Michael’s career, and it’s not until almost an hour in that we really touch upon his Parkinson’s disease, using archival footage and scenes from his work to perfection. He really highlights what makes Michael J. Fox such a special actor, and it’s easy to see how he has endeared himself to millions of fans worldwide.
The documentary focuses on his work with Family Ties and Back to the Future, even highlighting the ridiculous workload he juggled as he bounced between filming both at the same time. We see his relationship with Tracy Pollan blossom as well as his return to television with Spin City, but there is footage from some of his other roles, there isn’t too much time spent on anything else.
As a Michael J. Fox documentary, you’d expect to hear more about his work on the Back to the Future franchise, but his role in both sequels is hardly touched upon and there is no mention at all of his stint on Scrubs, a breakthrough where he used Parkinson’s to his advantage, incorporating it into his role as Kevin Casey.
The documentary is Michael at his most charming
The tragic irony is that even before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Michael was never really still. Whether it was running from bullies during his younger years, or the fast-paced energy that would seep through his acting roles, he was always on the move. Guggenheim not only highlights that, but intersperses it effectively with recent footage of Michael, struggling with his movement and working closely with a physiotherapist just to walk properly. It serves as a depressing contrast between the Michael J. Fox we grew up watching, and the one sapped of energy right now, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his infectious personality.
Even in his weakest moments, we see Michael’s wisecracking nature still firmly on display, as he manages to find humor in the most unlikely of circumstances. His penchant to make people laugh has never wavered, and it’s a testament to his inner strength and his refusal to let his disease dampen his spirits.
While it’s undeniably devastating to see him struggle with Parkinson’s disease, it’s also inspiring to see the 61-year-old handle it all in stride and remain his optimistic, bubbly self.
‘Still‘ only dedicates its final third to Michael’s Parkinson’s
There’s no denying that Parkinson’s disease is in the very DNA of this Michael J. Fox documentary. The slow build to the Parkinson’s coverage really allows viewers to see who Michael J. Fox was before the diagnosis and how it changed the trajectory of his career. It delves into the immediate aftermath of his diagnosis, how he and his wife Tracy dealt with it, and the inevitable lows he hit soon after.
Tracy isn’t in the documentary that much, but they make it clear that she is the source of Michael’s strength and her presence has given him the ability to handle anything life throws his way. It was the fear of losing her that helped him overcome his alcoholism, and it is her presence that sees him move throughout his physiotherapy sessions with an extra bounce in his step.
‘Still’ is a well rounding Michael J. Fox documentary
Surprisingly for a Michael J. Fox documentary, we see very little of his work with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization he founded in 2000 to help fund research for Parkinson’s disease, and it’s this lack of depth on some of the biggest milestones throughout his career that may disappoint his biggest fans. However, Still is a very effective insight into whom the actor is and the impact Parkinson’s has had on him, but perhaps more importantly, the impact he has had on the world.
Still is now streaming exclusively on AppleTV+, and it’s a Michael J. Fox documentary worth watching. Follow the Agents of Fandom on socials to stay up to date with all the latest news and reviews.
'Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie' Review'Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie' Review
- Perfect use of archival footage throughout his career
- Wonderful narration from Michael J. Fox himself
- Not enough coverage on certain important aspects of his career