Val (2021)

Val, a point of view documentary style story told by the titular actor Val Kilmer – at first glance may come off as pretentious, self-indulgent, egotistical but it’s not anything of that sort depending on your own interpretation of what’s being presented.though those undertones are certainly present, It’s a celebration of life, love, heartbreak, trauma, and friendship from the earliest childhood memories to present day in the aftermath of throat cancer that left Val with a voice-box that has to be pressed in order for the actor to speak. Barely able to be understood, Val is narrated by his son Jack Kilmer, who by voice sounds just like his father. 

Perhaps what’s most impressive about this documentary is the amount of raw, unedited footage Val Kilmer has in his possession.  From home movies with his family to behind the scenes of the major blockbusters the actor appeared in and everything in between, Val captured it all. He even has a wear house full of old, vintage media of everything he’s shot on camera. Val makes it a point in the documentary of his life to state the fact that he was the first person he knew to have a camcorder. 


Sharing his life for all of us to see can have the appearance of events being one sided.   That’s found in the formulaic DNA of documentaries and biopics, the whole story isn’t told. Everything that appears on screen is from Val’s point of view as spoken from his words. The fact that Kilmer has been notoriously known to be difficult to work with is glossed over, given a more sympathetic tone, showing Val as a victim instead of antagonizer. Home footage that appears in the final cut of Val even shows an argument between Val and director John Frankenheimer on the film The Island of Dr. Moreau in which Kilmer is clearly being difficult. The footage never lies even when the person telling the story says different. 

Kilmer often compared himself to his idol Marlon Brando, who Kilmer only got to work with once in his career in Dr. Moreau. Kilmer idolized Brando for his legendary work – even mapping out his approach to acting in the same vein. What works for one actor doesn’t necessarily work for the next and Kilmer might have bitten off more than he can chew with his approach. Kilmer see’s himself as a larger-than-life figure with true talent and purpose to create and step into different personalities, becoming different people. There’s no denying his talent, look at all the movies he’s appeared in over the course of his career. From the big roles of Heat, Willow, The Doors, Top Gun, & Tombstone, an ego undoubtedly will be formed. How many people can say they’ve portrayed The Dark Knight in a live action role? 13 – only a couple handfuls of actors. 

Getting his start at Julliard, Val shifted his career from theater to film getting a role in one blockbuster after another. He always stated he was destined for greatness, which is what he sought out with each role. Hoping that role would skyrocket his career, but that hope didn’t come to the fruition he had planned in his mind. 

Val’s life hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, there have been many tragedies he’s experienced but one that has stayed with him throughout his life Is the death of his brother Wesley to a heartbreaking drowning caused by his epilepsy. That death started a domino effect to his parents splitting up, breaking up a once happy home. Throughout the films 108-minute run time Val revisits his childhood which turned him into the man he is today.


Even with the cancer that took Val’s prized possession, his voice, the thing that gave him his illustrious career, Val still has this child-like wonder to his personality. Given the opportunity, Val will be his goofy self, with not a care in the world as if nothing bad ever happened to him. Divorced from his children’s mother, Val still has a strong connection to his children Jack and Mercedes.

Val is a love letter from himself to himself. It chronicles his entire life, what molded him into the man he is and his experiences along the way. Showcasing his career highlights, personal life and post cancer, Val has a unique beauty to it behind the perspective of who’s telling the story. It can be egotistical and one sided but there’s so much to unpack from this man’s life that it’s hard to imagine he captured it all on tape. 

Directed by: Leo Scott & Ting Poo

Release Date: July 7 2021 @ Cannes & July 23 2021 worldwide

Written by: Val Kilmer

Narrated by: Jack Kilmer

Distributed by Amazon Studios & A24

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Running Time: 1 hour 49 Minutes

Can be seen on: Amazon Prime

Score out of 5: 4.5 out of 5

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