Movie Review of "Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me"

Glen Campbell performs with his daughter Ashley on his Goodbye tour --Steve Snowden/ Getty Images Entertainment/ Getty Images.

In One Word?


The Story

Got a favorite Glen Campbell song? How about "Rhinestone Cowboy," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" or "Gentle on My Mind"? While I'm not in any way a country music expert, I do know that having an iconic career of music and acting that spans 50 years is incredible.

What's also incredible is the thought that the man who sang these songs and hundreds more and who could play a guitar in his sleep, doesn't remember what day it is today and is not able to recall the names of his children.

Glen Campbell was diagnosed in 2011 with Alzheimer's disease. And he's chosen to battle it publicly.

By "battling the disease publicly,"  I don't just mean that he's made a polite announcement that he has been experiencing a little memory loss and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and then forever disappearing from society. I mean that he's opened up his life to the world by letting them see him struggle with tying his shoe, not remembering four words right after the doctor says them to him, forgetting his family members, having a dramatically increased libido due to a medication change, and angrily accusing his friend of stealing his golf club. That's a different level of "going public," and that's what Glen Campbell does through this film.

The film shows footage of Campbell being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, his daily struggles to remember his schedule and communicate with those around him, many musical scenes from his 151 show "Goodbye" tour, his wife's challenges of caring for him, and interviews with other musicians including Bruce Springsteen, Cheryl Crow, Keith Urban about his impact on the entertainment world.


Some critics may question the decision to embark on the long "Goodbye" musical tour (footage of these tours make up a significant portion of the movie) and the filming of his every day life, asking if these decisions exploit Campbell. 

My answer? He was at his best- both cognitively and emotionally- when he was performing his music.

He could be having a difficult day, yet when he was on stage, he suddenly was able to draw on his musical memory and share his gifts with us just a little bit longer. It's as if his brain's cognitive reserve was so full of music that the disease just couldn't take it all away from him.

The scenes that include his difficult behaviors and emotions are presented in a way that accurately portray the disease without tearing Campbell down or removing his dignity. I would argue that though they could be uncomfortable to watch, they are part of what makes the documentary credible as it portrays the world of Alzheimer's disease.


The music- and his ability to perform it even as he struggles with the limitations of Alzheimer's- is phenomenal. One scene shows Campbell and his daughter Ashley musically dueling back and forth on his guitar and her banjo, poignantly capturing the joy and language of music. Another shows the recording of the heartbreaking ballad, "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" which infers that Campbell won't miss his loved ones because he won't be able to remember them.


The Alzheimer's expert in me also appreciated seeing how skilled Campbell was at covering for himself. When asked a question he didn't know, he'd laugh and say, "I don't worry about those things." This type of response is a very common tool used by people with dementia in the early stages to deflect attention and evade answering a direct question, and Campbell had it down to a science.

Bottom Line

If you're looking for a movie about Alzheimer's disease where everything miraculously turns out alright, this isn't it.

There are times of embarrassment, hurt and pain in this film. As Campbell's wife Kim watches her husband struggle, she states near the end of the film, "I think it's better to die from something else."

If you're interested, however, in the story of how a family copes with Alzheimer's disease, an accurate depiction of the disease, fantastic musical talent, and the ability to find moments of humor in the midst of darkness, this film's for you.

In this film, Campbell and his wife Kim Woollen of 32 years allow themselves to be vulnerable, and I find their willingness to sacrifice their privacy a gift. This inside view of Alzheimer's disease draws attention to the way it robs individuals, families and our world of loved ones and the gifts and talents they have. It may perhaps motivate communities and countries to fund continued research, ongoing education, and support for families and professional caregivers. Campbell and his family were given a stage and an audience, and they choose to use them to increase the understanding about Alzheimer's disease.

More Information

  • Release date: October 2014
  • Features: Glen Campbell, wife Kim (Woollen) Campbell, daughter Ashley Campbell
  • Directed by: James Keach
  • Produced by: Trevor Albert and James Keach
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Length: 104 minutes

**In the interest of full disclosure, I work for an organization that is a member of one of the film's supporters (LeadingAge) but I have no association with, or connection to, this film. I received a promotional copy of the film to review which was returned following my review.**

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