“I Am Heath Ledger” (M) ***

IN the latest of Canadian documentarist Derik Murray’s “I Am …” series about entertainment industry notables (many of whom have died), Heath Ledger appears in a lot of selfies.

I found those more discomfiting than the fact of a film about an Australian wonder boy film actor being the work of a team of not Aussies but Canucks, interspersing live footage of Ledger’s family and associates with footage that Ledger himself shot and cuts from his films. The result is 90 minutes of sober examination of a creative whizz-kid who by age 28 was burned out. In a sad way that might be his epitaph.

What’s interesting about Murray’s film is not what it tells us about Ledger’s life and career but what it doesn’t. For privacy reasons, I understand why it scarcely touches on his relationship with actress Michelle Williams and their now 12-year-old daughter Matilda. And it doesn’t include an interview with Matilda’s godfather Jake Gyllenhaal who together with Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for “Brokeback Mountain”.

The film looks at Ledger, the performing arts polymath, with candour interspersed with fragments of his achievements, especially in pop music (directing two music videos). It pays homage to his posthumous Best Actor Oscar as the Joker in “The Dark Knight”. His friends clearly remember him fondly. And while he did at times use recreational drugs, he died not from an overdose but from medication prescribed to treat a respiratory condition brought on by shooting an outdoor scene in pelting winter rain.

A champion chess player in childhood, he died before achieving an ambition to direct a feature drama based on Walter Tevis’ novel “The Queen’s Gambit”.

At Palace Electric


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